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The Double Truth (Pitt Poetry Series) Paperback – January 18, 2011
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“‘History, you know, is one thing and our lives are something else,’ wrote Octavio Paz, and Chard deNiord’s response to this in The Double Truth is both fascinating and instructive. The voice in these poems seems to have a cunning ability to see oneself as if from a distance. This is compelling, beautiful poetry.”
“Whether the language is rough and obscure or delicate and precise, this is Chard deNiord’s finest book. Philosophical and passionate, he poses this question: Within the enigma of life, how can we know? And who will not remember the ecstasy of love when reading his lines: ‘We were in two places at once like a wire, / stretched out between the cathodes of our / desire. So bare and live the ether / hummed like a swarm inside the air.’”
“Very few contemporary poets render, as uniquely as Chard deNiord does, the sheer wonder of being. Our world shines up from his lines and sentences with all its original splendor and strangeness. In deNiord’s spectacular gaze, old binaries of reality and dream, bitterness and love, joke and revelation, fuse into a beautiful whole. deNiord is a visionary and The Double Truth is a vital book.”
“With philosophers and beasts for his confidants, deNiord accesses both eros and cosmos—the far reaches of love and eternity—with a companionable, searing exactness. These are quiet, bottomless poems of true consequence.”
“Captivates with its lyric language, addressing the ebb and flow of love’s presnece in life, imparting the poet’s insightful knowledge.”
About the Author
Chard deNiord is the author of three previous poetry collections: Night Mowing, Sharp Golden Thorn, and Asleep in the Fire. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Crazyhorse, Antioch Review, American Poetry Review, Salmagundi, and Prairie Schooner. He is associate professor of English at Providence College and cofounder of the New England College MFA program in poetry.
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Published by University of Pittsburgh Press, The Double Truth continues and sharpens this way of seeing, and offers eighty-three poems, most fitting on a single page. For readers like myself who tend to laziness when faced with much of today's poetry, deNiord's work is more than accessible. Readers with a low tolerance for the superfluous, for originality in service of itself, will settle comfortably into these pages. In a few instances while reading these poems I gladly clicked on Google to check an allusion. The result always enriched the reading experience.
DeNiord's world extends far beyond rural New England. Whether using rural settings as touchstones or jumping directly into a more abstract and historical frame, the poems consistently rise to that next level of meaning. Early in The Double Truth we find a five-part teaser on the existence of God entitled "Occam Applies his Razor to the Thought of Aquinas," and a prose poem in the voice of Jan Weiner, the Czech Jew who fought in the British air force during World War II after fleeing Nazis in Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Whatever the mood or subject, the poems consistently convert to themes of art, reality, love, the Divine.
In "At the Socratic Sugar House," a poem which almost immediately recalls Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the speaker and his down-to-earth counterpart discuss the nature of the steam rising from boiling sap. The speaker posits the steam as a ghost or a cloud, and in an aside to the reader, announces, "My mind's the fire that boils the sap that turns to syrup." His partner says the steam is what it is, just steam, but finally concedes, in his own way, that the human imagination colors every observation:
You look at the steam and see
a ghost. I look at the steam
and see my grief. We're close
enough in that I guess
so let's leave it there.
Either way it comes to nothing
in the air above the roof.
In "After the Storm," with its epigraph to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, a poem which itself celebrates nature, the speaker, walking the land after a storm, inspects the damage to woods and fields, and reaches for that higher power with the image, "...an owl called out/Somewhere like a hole with a god inside. In "What Beauty Knows about Itself," deNiord's speaker reminds us that Beauty.... might as well be motherless since death is its mother/That it fades much quicker than it appears. And in "Memoir," a poem whose subject is the tension of commitment, the speaker describes himself as a blindfolded entertainer who throws knives at a woman who straddles a spinning wheel:
.... I threw at her to hit
the space between her legs, beside her head
beneath her arms....my life in hers in a mortal art
where every night she was reprieved for having
lived, and I was kissed as she was freed
as part of the act that traveled the country and built
my fame as the man who misses with perfect aim.
And lastly, in a poem of perhaps unrequited love called "All the Unlikeness," the lover addresses the inadequacy of words. The poem is an attack on simile, and for me a perfect example of deNiord's "double truth."
I sing the song that I made up about your body,
how all of its pieces are less than the whole
I can't describe, how each exquisite part
brings to mind another thing that is nothing
like what I say it is -
Chard deNiord lives in Putney, teaches English at Providence College, and is cofounder of the New England College MFA program in poetry. Not surprisingly, he holds an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from Lynchburg College. He attended Yale Divinity School from 1975-1978, and graduated from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1985. His website, charddeniord.com, lists his contributions to anthologies and literary journals as well as his awards, most notably his selection for the 1999 volume of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize collections. Forthcoming from Marick Press is a prose collection of three essays and seven interviews with senior poets including Galway Kinnell, Maxine Kumin, and Vermont's Poet Laureate, Ruth Stone. The collection is called Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Conversations and Reflections with Twentieth Century Poets.
DeNiord's poems appear in such publications as the Hudson, Agni, Kenyon, and Harvard reviews. These are literary journals of lasting repute, and for a reviewer to paraphrase or explicate his poems as I've done here risks placing limits on works of art which bear a range of meanings and associations. But I can safely say about The Double Truth that its wisdom reaches for something far beyond the mud and the bees.