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Interstate (Pitt Poetry Series) Paperback – August 28, 2015
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“Interstate has a fierce engine that is both erotic and metaphysical. Eros occurs when states are crossed — bitter to sweet, mortal to immortal, conscious to unconscious. The metaphysical experience is like looking down a well. So, if readers look down its well and expect to see their reflection, they’ll be disappointed, and if they look down its well and expect to see heaven, they'll be disappointed, but if they want to see both, and can live in the shimmer, then this book is for them.”
—J. Allyn Rosser
About the Author
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Chard deNiord has the knack, in common with some poets whom it would embarrass him to name, of seeming to create his own separate reality, with slightly different rules and even slightly different motivations than your own. When a line is a little startling or novel you find yourself saying not, “I never thought of that,” but “I never would have thought of that.” In “Grouse” a bird takes off from a field, “pumping the air as if it were blood.” In the beautiful “Halfway Down” he encounters a deer, thinks about the scene from the point of view of the deer, and also sees himself thinking: “I stood alone / but double then.” In “Under the Open”: “The sky is a hole through which I see most of the way.”
The poems often end with a jump in an unexpected direction, turning the idea of the poem inside out. The last lines of “Transfiguration” trip up the familiar conceit that although the lover's beauty can't endure, it will live on in the poem: “I had seen you changed/ in a moment that passed in vain without you.” Here is “Smooth Dark Stone,” a compact “Ozymandias,” in its entirety: “Already I know from the smooth dark stone/ that a name has disappeared in time./ How to carve another for now as deep/ as the other and not believe it will last forever?” Not, “how will I write a poem that will last forever,” but “how will I come to terms with the fact that all things—even those I love, even me, even the words I write—are mortal?”
In a brief, intricate, agonizing poem called “Rescue” he watches a man on television, “famous for being unknown,” saved from flood waters by a helicopter, but he sees in that image not life restored but death foretold: “We gaze through the window/ of his frightened face at the long/ short line in which we stand/ on the sinking earth.” Our lives are lost, not saved, but on the other side of the fatal violence there is salvation by “the host of hosts who hovers/ above the whirling blades.” We are not spared from death, he wants us to remember, even if we believe there is another life beyond it.
The New England outdoorsiness, and the easy way with the symbolism of homely objects and situations, might make you think of Robert Frost. But in the background of Chard deNiord’s poems, with their conversational, uneven rhythms, their gift for plainspoken expression of complex ideas, and their meticulous attention to individual instances, I hear Richard Hugo, and behind him William Carlos Williams: an unsparingly analytical, learnèd skepticism; a heart that longs for meaning and salvation; and most of all, a sense of wonder at the insoluble problem of making them run together in double harness. What a book this is!