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Sixty Sonnets Paperback – February 15, 2009
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Ernest Hilbert’s sure-footed poems have the breathless urgency of a man telling others the way out of a burning building. Unafraid to startle, often winning out over recalcitrant material, they score astonishing successes. A bold explorer with few rivals, Hilbert enlarges the territory of traditional form. Sixty Sonnets may be the most arresting sequence we have had since John Berryman checked out of America.
– X.J. Kennedy, author of Lords of Misrule and editor of Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama
Hilbert has an appetite for life equal to his taste in literature: a rare combination in an age of dissociated sensibility. In these sonnets, whose dark harmonies and omnivorous intellect remind the reader of Robert Lowell’s, Hilbert is alternately fugitive and connoisseur, hard drinker and high thinker. But he is always a true poet, proud to belong to the company of those who still feel “The last, noble pull of old ways restored, / Valued and unwanted, admired and ignored.”
– Adam Kirsch, author of The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets
Just as the work of the modernists showed that the best free verse usually has something masterfully formal about it, Hilbert’s fine collection might serve to remind us that the best formal poetry has about it a marvelous colloquial freshness and inventiveness, and the ring of an actual human voice. It is a touching and intelligent book.
– Franz Wright, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
About the Author
More About the Author
He supplies opera libretti and song lyrics for contemporary composers Stella Sung, Daniel Felsenfeld, and Christopher LaRosa, as well as scripts for the post-punk conceptual band Mercury Radio Theater. Hilbert is the Concentration Director for the World of Versecraft, the Master of Fine Arts program in poetry at Western State University of Colorado, where he teaches an intensive summer course on the practical art of the opera libretto as well as courses in verse satire, dramatic poetry, studies in translation, and the history of the English language.
His poems have appeared in Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Parnassus, Sewanee Review, Hudson Review, Boston Review, Verse, New Criterion, The New Republic, American Scholar, Oxonian Review, and the London Review, as well as several anthologies, including the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets (2009), Two Weeks: A Digital Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (2011), The Incredible Sestina Anthology (2013), and two Penguin anthologies, Poetry: A Pocket Anthology and Literature: A Pocket Anthology (2011). He graduated from Oxford University, where he edited the Oxford Quarterly. He later served as poetry editor of Random House's magazine Bold Type and editor of Contemporary Poetry Review. He hosts the popular blog www.everseradio.com and the biannual E-Verse Equinox Reading Series at Fergie's Pub in Philadelphia. He works as an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, Keeper of the Mediterranean Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Hilbert's full career biography appears at the bottom of this page.
Top Customer Reviews
Happily, I was dead wrong. This debut collection has many virtues, not the least of which is its celebration of the physical, visceral, frightening world of human beings. Read Sixty Sonnets and you will find yourself inside noisy bars, boring parties, emergency rooms, and even at the bottom of a river. Along the way you will meet pathetic drunks, lonely academics, cynical ex-lovers, and barbers that time forgot. And, of course, you will bump into the poet himself. He will usually be the one with something interesting to add, perhaps a thoughtful reflection ("we blank out one future each time we decide"), or a crisp observation ("wind rearranges sunlight through the pines"), or a poignant lament ("the mornings that remain seem too few"). Whatever the poet has to say, he says it well, sometimes with foul-mouthed directness, sometimes with humor, but always with sincerity.Read more ›