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The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel (Wick Chapbook Series 3) Paperback – February 7, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
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"Reading The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel, I had the sense of finding a poet I'd been looking for unawares: one who intertwines a survey of human sexuality (and gay sexuality at that) with theological questions; one who tackles ambitious poetic projects without sounding pretentious; one who writes fables using the ordinary materials of daily reality; one who balances the Jewish sources of the Western tradition with its Hellenic counterpart; one who knows how to be serious with the assistance of laughter; one who can tell a story and excerpt his own autobiography as a way of gaining larger perspectives on experience. 'No things but in ideas, ' seems to be his aesthetic motto, and that has served him well in his goal--to declare that we are free to follow our natures in the pursuit of happiness."
About the Author
Benjamin S. Grossberg is associate professor of literature and creative writing at Antioch College. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Paris Review, Pleiades, and North American Review and has been anthologized in the Pushcart Prize anthology for 2005.
Top customer reviews
The Wick chapbook series from Kent State University can be counted on to deliver good, solid poetry with every volume they release, and The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel is no exception. Grossberg's poems are all over the subject map, from the sublime to the ridiculous, but he treats everything with the same air of wistful... well, perhaps respect is not the word. Examination, perhaps. The best example of this can be found in "Pig Auction", for it's possible no earthier subject could be found for Grossberg's rather ethereal language:
"From the sidelines where we stand, I suggest
we root for the pig; but you tell me that the pig,
its future in show, breeding, or pork--
most likely a combination-- needs no help
in rooting. I turn back to the pen, unconvinced,
because the odds seem stacked against it:
the reason? Auctioneer, voice tripping
like water down a rock face...."
I love it. How do you make an absurd situation more so? Ask Benjamin Grossberg. But puns and silliness are not by any means the complete story here; Grossberg's poetry runs the gamut.
"I'm fighting a god for you: Jesus, who scowls
at my petty ministrations from a cross,
or who looks down through a well in Heaven
and sees the fire of my cauldron burning
here on Earth. He will have you for church socials,
Easter egg hunts. He is furious when I spend
the night, and you don't get enough sleep to attend...."
While one can't blame Grossberg for this, the book's main problem is that it is too short; it's a chapbook, yes, and at thirty pages is actually pretty long for a Wick release. But I want more of Benjamin Grossberg. *** ½
The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel is one of those rare poetry books that seamlessly combines the everyday world and the world of the imagination. Mundane incidents (seeing beetles in a tennis court, curbing an ant infestation, petting a lover's dog) become catalysts for reflections on individual incidents and, more importantly, individuals: their connection to their god, their desires and to each other. The narrator of these poems is sympathetic (In "Terro Ant Killer," he watches the ants' insatiable gluttony only to recognize the same tendencies in himself.), romantic, erotic, idealistic, humorous (Who does not wish that, by the time the end of the world rolls around, he/she will have a lover polite enough to open his/her coffin before climbing into his own?). In short, he is richly complicated, in the best, most ambiguous sense, much like the mythological characters who are often the subjects of his meditations.
The narrator's complication allows for both striking metaphor (the equating of apples with eroticism) and images that are striking in their simplicity. (The narrator cannot comfort a lover who has been sexually abused, but he can comfort the lover's dog, who is also a victim of abuse.)These are poems about life as it is and--that classic preoccupation of myth--life as it could be.