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Reading The Water (Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize) Paperback – Unabridged, October 30, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In his introduction to this first volume, winner of the Samuel French Morse Prize, Edward Hirsch praises Webb's stand-up comic stance, but do poetry and mundane, superficial comedy really belong together? Webb, who is also a psychotherapist, takes a glib view of his fellow humans, creating a muse whose favorite comment is, "The main theme of modern life is the humiliation of the protagonist." In all but his most powerful, seemingly personal poems ("The Death of Santa Claus," "Blind"), he uses craft to replace content. "I was sunk in complacency/ with my good salary, good job, good girlfriend,/ writing good poems about nothing (or next to)." A very astute observation he unfortunately does not heed. Not recommended.?Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

According To The Rule
Back Flip
Behaviorists
Blind
Broken Toe
Buyer's Remorse
The Crane Boy
The Dead Run
The Death Of Santa Claus
Eating
Evil Genius
Fantasy Girl
Flying Fish In The Jet Stream
Four-wheeling
Girl At A Window
Health
Heat Death
Holiday Inn
How Lizzie Died
In Praise Of Pliny
In The War Zone
Invocation To Allen As The Muse Euterpe
Marilyn's Machine
Mastery
The Mummy Meets Hot-headed Naked Ice-borers
My Muse
Nature Poem
Once Bitten
One Story
Optimism
Peaches
Perspective
Poem For The Future
Prayer For The Man Who Mugged My Father, 72
Reading The Water
The Reasonable Man
The Shape Of History
Spiders
Spirits
Subatomic Particles
The Temptations Of Pinocchio
True Prophets
Twenty Years Late To See The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Umbrellas
What The Poets Would Have Done For You
Without Being A Wimp
You Missed The Earthquake, Bill
-- Table of Poems from Poem Finder®
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Product Details

  • Series: Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize (Book 199)
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Northeastern; Morse Poetry Prize Edition edition (October 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555533256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555533250
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kevin griffith on October 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Probably one of the best and most clever books of poetry written in the last ten years. Webb is a member of the "stand-up" school of West Coast poetry, a movement that seeks to inject comedy and surprise into the otherwise staid and dull world of poetry. He's Billy Collins, but with a much darker--and smarter--edge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I found this one in the Dartmouth Bookstore Basement for $1 and what with it being National Poetry Month (April) and the cover blurb declaring it the winner of the 1997 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize (no I've never heard of it either), I figured I'd give it a shot. It was four quarters well spent.
Using traditional poetry forms and the incidents of everyday life, Webb crafts some really witty and wonderful little poems. Whether he's writing about a Cristo art project (Umbrellas) or The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Twenty Years Too Late to See The Rocky Horror...), he uncovers the amazing in the mundane. Several have a pretty sharp edge to them, like Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72--suffice it to say, the mugger hopes the prayer doesn't come to pass. And a couple are just really funny, like Broken Toe, where the title occurrence at least snaps him out of his middle aged complacency. And I found one image that for me really captures what poetry can do at its best, the clever use of words to paint an indelible image. It's from the poem Spiders:
Their webs, transparent fielders' gloves,
pluck flies out of mid-air.
The baseball analogy alone is enough to get my attention, but the play on the word flies exemplifies the cleverness on display throughout this collection.
The poems of Charles Harper Webb are well worth checking out. I found a bunch of his poems on-line and linked to them below--give them a try and if you see the book for $1, grab it.
GRADE: A
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Randi Gottlieb on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was in the middle of reading this book of poems and accidentally left it on a plane. Suffice it to say that I couldn't rest until I secured another copy. Really, it's that good. I couldn't say it better than Edward Hirsch who wrote the introduction to this compilation, "Charles Harper Webb has a wild inventive energy, a quirky, at times even manic wit, and a deep sense of wonder at the world"... "As a poet, he's a wiseacre, a trouble maker - part stand up comic, part anthropologist, part visionary."
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on August 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Accessible. The more he resembles Billy Collins the more I like him. (He's very like Billy Collins!) Best are the one about the carnivorous Chain of Being (4get title) and (?)Death Race, which is kinda similar. The last dozen poems were familiar - did Webb put all his favourites at the rear and then hive them off for a selected that I've read & forgotten about? Unless he had a whole bunch in that Seriously Funny anthology, which is - what it says on the tin. But my two faves are serious. Well, funny/serious - it's funny that we take things so seriously. Except when it's your face that gets pushed in. So, almost a five - I'll save that for the selected, but I've got that pesky Tulip Farms one someplace - if I could just lay my hands on it..
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