From Publishers Weekly
Rice's final, posthumous collection comprises a series of voice-driven anti-psalms, which pick up numerically where the Bible leaves off (at number 151) and take shots at old-fashioned, Old Testament ranting, while at the same time exploring a more contemporary edge of personal uncertainty, skepticism and fear of death. Rice takes aim at some familiar bogeymen, including TV evangelists and hypocritical religious leaders. "I was a chef on the Lord's battleship," one speaker declares. "It was foul, it was slavery. Radios/ Played only the organ./ Repeating things was the only proof they were true." And while his slings and arrows often hit the mark, his attempts to evoke the tricky, meaning-laden riddles of ancient writing (more characteristic, actually, of the proverbs than of the psalms) are generally unsatisfying. Sweeping statements about "The nothing that everything comes from/ And the everything that from it comes" and weak exhortations, such as "If you want to go deeper,/ Rise," fall short of the sting of the ancient writing that they engage. The poems are most interesting when the speakers' attempts at spiritual introspection catapult them into realms manic, chaotic, melancholic and surreal: "I/ Reach down into the black jelly/ Of my heart and hold out a handful./ It is part me, and partly the big teeth/ And mad eyes of a horse." Rice died in December of last year and did not get the chance to edit a final version of this book. It serves as a compelling jumping off point for thinking about religion and rhetoric, and as a fitting capstone to a long and eclectic career in poetry and art.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Inside Flap
Stan Rice, who died in December 2002, was a poet of unique, uncompromising vision. Joy and brutality, faith and faithlessness, the beauty of truth and, at times, of untruth-these opposing forces come together one last time in his final book of poetry, a haunting collection of psalms.
Beginning with his "Psalm 151"-that is, taking up where the Bible leaves off-Rice calls us to his own kind of prayer and contemplation. "Lord, hear me out," he begins. "At the point of our need / The storehouse shares its shambles." An elegant, passionate, tragic lament for our condition, Rice's homemade psalms exhort us indirectly to accept our fate-the world as it is. In the brave, unshrinking manner that has characterized his whole career, Rice has written a profound farewell.
"From the Hardcover edition.