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Approximate Desire (Inland Seas) Paperback – October 1, 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Russell Thorburn's remarkable visionary poems are an invitation to play life-and-death baseball with Ty Cobb and the Oaxaca Nine or maybe walk hand-in-hand with such luminaries as Einstein, Apollinaire, and Cocteau. Transcending time and space, these poems take my breath away. They emerge from the imagination and heart--astonishing in their brilliance, impeccable in their leaps of language, and utterly devastating in their inner truth." -- Judith Minty

The achievement of Approximate Desire is more than considerable; it is indispensable. These are poems of deep compassion and remarkable vision, and I was both haunted and sobered by the ways in which sorrow finds its equivalent in love, and vice versa. An original and fully engaging debut collection of the first order. -- Jack Driscoll

The poems in Russell Thorburn's Approximate Desire are full of lush precision and gentle grace. These poems travel far in place and time, displaying an astonishing range while grounding themselves in subtle, impressionistic landscapes. Cocteau, Apollinaire, Einstein, Ty Cobb--you never know who's going to show up, but it's clear that everyone is comfortable here on these pages. I love the quiet dignity of these poems. When I read this book, I felt someone's hand over my heart. -- Jim Daniels

We read the title soft as description, hard as an imperative. I balance between--Thorburn wields some gentleness of attention to a man's fantasies and fond reminiscences, but there is also a tough-minded agenda here, to make sense of the given, what his life gives him to work with, the karmic webs of his own inclination and happenstance, his cities and false starts....Baseball is an art and its practitioners are smart peers to surrealist poets and famous painters. But in the best poem in the book, it's a poet alone who works it out with a city all around him, and loses, and loses his life into song. -- Robert Kelly

About the Author

RUSSELL THORBURN was born in Birmingham, Michigan. Such journals as Third Coast, Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, and The Quarterly have published his work. He has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1998), the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, ArtServe, and PEN/American. He has taught poetry to prison inmates, and worked with emotionally impaired students. He lives in Marquette, Michigan.
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Product Details

  • Series: Inland Seas
  • Paperback: 70 pages
  • Publisher: New Issues Poetry & Prose (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932826806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932826800
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 6.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,167,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Approximate Desire is a fabulous book that skirts around the edges of autobiography by appropriating the voices of the dead--Apollinaire, Ty Cobb and Einstein to name just three--to speak for the author. It's erotic and emotional and reflective stuff. The book could continue to unfurl off the tongues of others, but Thorburn comes in with a few personal poems that are moving and interestingly spare. The book is very male, but not in the least MACHO. Thorburn is going to end up being an important (and prolific) poet. I look forward with great interest to his future work. (I mean, he's the kind of poet that keeps one guessing: where will he go from here? . . .)
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Format: Paperback
Russell Thorburn, Approximate Desire

(New Issues Press, 1999)

reviewed by Catherine Sundt

In the space of 61 pages of poetry, Russell Thorburn takes his readers from Paris to Minnesota, to the 19th century and back again, and into the minds and interactions of historical figures ranging from Einstein to Ty Cobb. It is this range and variety that makes his poetry collection, Approximate Desire, so appealing to everyone from a poetry expert to a novice reader.

The book is divided into three parts, each with its own rhythm and tone. In the first section, Thorburn describes personal experiences of historical figures, focusing mainly on the French surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Switching between first and third person narration, Thorburn shows Apollinaire's varied experiences in France. He experiences the turmoil of war. He plays a lighthearted tennis matches with his friend, the Parisian artist Marie Laurencin, in which they exchange witty banter. "Dammit," he cries at her, "behave / like a woman," as she sticks out her tongue, / hands on her hips, flat-chested painter / with eyes much bigger than her face." Later, in an imagined conversation, Apollinaire discusses relativity with Einstein, describing how "the fire of mathematics / lights his eyes, his shirt unbuttoned / to the chest, and he tells me / about the way the world will end." It is this flawless juxtaposition that Apollinaire presented in his own poetry, and Thorburn continues beautifully against the setting of Paris.

The second section is the most eclectic, and seems to be where many of Thorburn's personal experiences come forth. Many of these poems are driven by specific settings or landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, Montreal, or a mysterious Lesznianska Street.
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