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Signs & Wonders (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction) 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0801899744
ISBN-10: 0801899745
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Editorial Reviews


As Signs & Wonders demonstrates so triumphantly, you'd have a hard time to find better contemporary poems than Charles Martin's. I can only be grateful for 'Ovid to His Book,' 'Support,' 'Poem for the Millennium,' 'Near Jeffrey's Hook,' 'After 9/11,' 'Poison,' and many more. Martin does not merely write well-made, shapely poems; he charges them with energy. I'm placing my bet that they will last.

(X. J. Kennedy)

Charles Martin's new book, Signs & Wonders, is elegant and powerful. Past and present commingle as he writes poems of contemporary life in traditional form, and with a remarkable range: 'Poem for the Millennium' in accentual verse, and one of the best 9/11 poems we have in terza rima. Taking his cue from Catullus and Ovid, whose work he has brilliantly translated, Martin creates his own new vision of the world in language of praise with an underlying tone of combined horror and awe.

(Grace Schulman)

Like an expert cellist in full control of phrasing and intonation, he can make a line of metrical verse sonorous or playful, tenebrous or scintillating, elegiac or mercurial.

(David Yezzi)

Charles Martin is a poet of dazzling formal dexterity. Deep realizations flow through his fluent lines and stanzas, in which our present condition is clarified by allusions to our past. A poem on a computer virus at the Millennium invokes earlier monstrous invasions in the alliterative meter of Beowulf, the horror of 9/11 is summoned by tercets as in The Inferno. The clarity, the precision of Martin's language makes his poems accessible and memorable. This is the work of a master.

(Daniel Hoffman)

'After 9/11' is alone worth the price of the book and will repay many readings, but all the poems share important virtues. They’re sonically pleasing and rich in allusion, but they’re also direct. Here there are no cryptic, difficult poems on the attack. Nothing here is pointless, and much is beautiful. All works toward a fruitful clarity and invites us to think hard about what bones we and Martin have built on.

(Maryann Corbett Contemporary Poetry Review)

If you need to be reminded, or to discover, why Martin is considered a master, pick up your own copy of Signs & Wonders.

(Alexander Pepple Think Journal)

About the Author

Two of Charles Martin’s earlier collections of poetry, What the Darkness Proposes and Steal the Bacon, were published by Johns Hopkins, as was his translation, The Poems of Catullus. In 2005 he received an Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Product Details

  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801899745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801899744
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,309,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As you begin this new book of poetry by Charles Martin, you're given the direction to look at the words "signs" and "wonders" in a particular light: signs being used as a noun, while "wonders" is to be used as a verb. A small detail, but one that makes a significant impact on the reading. The implication is that Martin is offering, not complete and finished expressions, but little riffs on which to ponder and reflect upon.

My first impression was how varied the poems are-some are short, almost just an observation rather than a poem. Others have a limerick quality, while a few extend to pages of rhymed couplets. For some reason, I was predisposed to think of this as "serious" poetry, but in fact, I giggled uncontrollably at a few of them ("The Spaniard", for one).

His topics also vary, and yet the whole remains cohesive. One example is "Brooklyn in the Seventies", where at first it appears he's waxing nostalgic about thriving real estate and restoring brownstones, and then it pivots to discuss the variations in marriage-the times of tearing down and renewal. The parallels are uncanny and truly lead you to wonder:

Yes, selves were in a frenzy of commotion,

And those beyond their expiration dates

Were being tossed despite years of devotion

So whether by one's doing or by fate's

One found oneself in an unlikely place...

My favorite is "Ovid to His Book", in which the ancient poet imagines sending to one of his books Rome to somehow regain his entry to the city from which he's exiled.
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Signs & Wonders (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)
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