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The Eternal City: Poems (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets) Paperback – July 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Nonfiction

Winner of the 2012 Book Merit Award in the General Trade, Poetry Series, New York Book Show

Winner of the 2011 Literary Award for Poetry, Library of Virginia

Finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle in Poetry

Finalist for the 2011 William Carlos Williams Award, Poetry Society of America

"Graber is one of the most interesting, slippery and philosophical new poets to come along in a while. . . . [W]hat makes Graber's poems so fresh and wild are the associative slips that happen between the distant past and the urgent present."--Publishers Weekly

"[N]othing short of a revelation. Graber is a new poet that we should have always had but didn't until just now. Graber is the kind of poet who thinks out loud, though not in the tricky, needley way of John Ashbery, but like someone very smart and very well-read trying to get to the bottom of every troubling and exciting thought. She thinks about her day to day life, family and friends, their every day goings on, their deaths and big tragedies, and she thinks about big ideas--life, death, meaning--mostly in the same poem. She name-checks some of the big figures of Western thought--Marcus Aurelius and Walter Benjamin, for instance--but does so as if she were talking to or about friends. She manages to do a scholar's work in these poems without the alienating haughtiness of many scholars. And despite their learned-ness, these are poems anyone could love. . . . If you only read one book of poetry this year, that's not enough, but start with this one."--Craig Teicher, Publishers Weekly

"Graber's book--this is her second--is one of the few to come out in 2010 that has joined the little clutch I have of poetry books I read and reread. It's an unusually wise and sturdy book for a poet whose career is so young. . . . Graber isn't a formal innovator, nor is her subject matter--family, love, friendship, death, and the great books of classical literature--new to poetry, but she is nonetheless an absolute original. . . . Which is not to say she is by any means a grandiose poet. She's more of a very smart friend. Her problems are common--how to get along with others, how to make everyday love last and/or hurt less, how to have fun in the midst of a typically difficult life--and her poems offer, if not solutions (for there really are no solutions, are there?), company, and really good reading."--Craig Morgan Teicher, National Book Critics Circle board member

"A really unusual, engaging second book. Graber writes philosophical, meditative poems in a diction that's strangely natural and conversational; one poem is occasioned by leaving her keys in the apartment complex laundry room and locking herself out, another by rereading Walter Benjamin. The effect is of eavesdropping on the neurotic yet rigorous mind of an admired friend--the kind of unpretentious person who genuinely turns to books for solace. Her long-lined work grapples with loss, illness, and transience, allowing itself to be highly personal while never losing sight of the larger context of loss: the human condition. It's serious poetry as inviting as an intimate conversation. See for yourself."--Meghan O'Rourke, NPR

"Graber's poems like to pose as effortless journal entries, but these are highly structured, artfully rendered missives that unfold inward."--Dean Rader, San Francisco Chronicle

"Graber, who draws on philosophy and theology, knows how to juxtapose large ideas with small moments. . . . Her careful balancing and sensitive descriptions often feel as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer day. That's especially true with the heart of this collection, 12 interlocking poems that begin with quotations from Marcus Aurelius. . . . This series demonstrates why ancient ideas are relevant today, and why Graber deserves to be in the company of such accomplished poets."--Elizabeth Lund, Washington Post

"In Graber's poems, past, present, and future states of mind are coexistent with real and imagined worlds. This adds complex layering to her elegant and well-crafted long lines. . . . Shape-shifting and particularity-making, Graber's themes encompass a vast array of subjects, from religious iconography to graffiti to placards of state bureaucracy, yet in her skillful hands, the images cohere and we travel with her, those 285 steps of the Siegessaule. . . . A brilliant new voice is calling out from these exquisitely drawn verses."--Losana Boyd, First Things

"[O]utstanding collection. . . . These poems are like cherishable letters from a friend abroad. . . . Graber reminds one that poetry can be the most liberating form. . . . Kathleen Graber is mistress of these graceful inquisitions--and agile cadences. Her wings are unclipped. She convinces as a poet who has the freedom of the city--of the eternal city."--Kate Kellaway, The Observer

"Secretary of unwhispered announcements, Kathleen Graber traces the outlines of meaning with a sure, deliberate hand. Her engaging ruminations merge forms: diary, letter, and essay. In this second collection, she extends her reputation as a poet of 'beauty and deeply felt intelligence.' Graber holds the hammer of time at both ends, beating out ideas into images and conversely, images into ideas. History and memory course through the pages, reintegrated into the present by insightful observations. . . . 'Loneliness, the one defendable empire,' never looked better."--Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Brooklyn Rail

"Kathleen Graber is an incredibly serious, intelligent and technically-gifted poet."--John Deming, Coldfront Magazine

"Kathleen Graber's aptly titled second collection of poetry, The Eternal City, questions the reality and logic of what it means to communicate with the past, present, and future. From the first poem until the last she is in conversation with 'the eternal,' but more specifically with human interaction and thinking that jumps back and forth on an infinite timeline. This trope is one of the most successful, and intriguing, threads throughout her book. . . . The underlying success here is that Graber takes unrelated texts and persons and intricately weaves them together with forceful language and aesthetic resonance."--Lana Rakhman, TriQuarterly

"[T]hrough sheer persistence I'll find a book in which almost every poem makes me fall down, so dizzied am I by the world spinning and resolving itself in new ways. Such is the experience I had with Kathleen Graber's The Eternal City. . . . [T]he book is barely able to contain these thought-full poems that spool outward into the world around the poet, both the world of the world and the world of the mind, and curl back on themselves."--Marilyn McCabe,

About the Author

Kathleen Graber teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poems have appeared in the "New Yorker" and the "American Poetry Review", among other publications, and her first collection, "Correspondence", was published in 2006.


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1St Edition edition (July 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691146101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691146102
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By druek on September 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Graber writes like I think, which I enjoy, especially when the thoughts are deeper than mine. Graber is an erudite and wide reader; I'm a little intimidated by her intelligence, but only a little. Mainly I'm in awe, and enjoy learning from her. In terms of style she's conversational, leaps about, but always there's some mysterious center of gravity in each poem that makes me feel as though I've just been on a terrific boat ride in a storm, with no fear of losing my way. If you like David Kirby, Lisa Lewis, Kenneth Koch, Larry Levis, Robert Hass, etc., how could you not love Graber?
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon Corelis on February 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
There seems to be a new genre of long poem coming out of the current American creative writing establishment. As yet unnamed, we might call it the "segmented philosophically framed confessional poem." The idea is to use quotes from one or more great authors of the past as a frame for a long poem in a small number of chapter-parts detailing the poet's personal experiences. The quotes are usually of an elegant or profound nature intended to provide an ironic contrast to the everyday details of modern life which they frame.

Most of the recent books of this nature which I've seen, though, end up recycling the same old "here's what I'd tell my therapist" self-indulgent agony which has become practically the defining characteristic of contemporary establishment poetry in the U.S. - you can't make a stale cake fresh by putting it into a new box.

The Eternal City is very much in this style, with the carefully wrought frame serving as a vehicle for details from the life of the middle-aged, middle-class academic who seems to be the only allowable persona for most current poets: parents die, children are born, dysfunctional family and other relationships are minutely remembered, trivial everyday experiences are pondered for their infinite significance, famous places are traveled to, great books and paintings are meditated upon... The ironies inherent in the framing device are sometimes mishandled to the point of bathos, as when a quote from Marcus Aurelius:

"From my grandfather Verus, I learned good morals and the government of my temper.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kent Shaw on April 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
In the opening poem to The Eternal City, Kathleen Graber describes a mirror she finds in an abandoned building. After she sees her reflection, she smashes the mirror, collects the shards, and, when she gets them home, pours the shards into a milk bottle she casts as an idol for her home. I can think of no better analogy for the poems in The Eternal City. But it's not an analogy based on the violence of smashing a mirror. Instead, it's Graber collecting these shards that had held her image, significantly, her kept memory of whatever that image represented to her alongside the physically fragmented evidence that that image at one point existed.

It's difficult to touch the complexity of this milk bottle filled with mirror shards. For it possesses a stillness and a tragic memory and a self-reflection that infuses nearly every fragment in Graber's poems. The image of the milk bottle refers to an order and artful arrangement accomplished as the fragments of each poem coalesce to become a complete thing. For instance, in the poem "The Third Day," fragments about Augustine and his friends stealing pears are juxtaposed to the fragments about a bunch of kids the speaker sees rough housing after school, and both of these fragments reflect on the Senator who makes a speech about "Islamo-fascist terrorists." The speaker of the poem explains that sin is the absence of good, and when I weigh this statement against the accumulation of the different images of the poem, then I must reflect personally on what circumstances exemplify an absence of good, and at the same time whether I have lost sight of what animates the most adolescent versions of evil.

This is the kind of thick and textured meaning that Graber creates in her poems. And to what effect?
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