The Enemies of Leisure, a collection drawn from a decade of writing, wonders about the odd paradoxes of pleasure and mindfulness, leisure and labor, invisibility and truth. Bound by Aristotle’s comment, “Happiness appears to depend on leisure,” the book divides into four sections, gathering poems concerned with sex and love, home and distances, idleness and work, and uncertainty and death. Mixing traditional and open forms, as well as high and low idioms, these poems’ symmetry depends on remaining always precise without making too much sense, as they yoke the influences of Ashbery and Rich, Dorn and Wilbur, poets otherwise as estranged from each other as waffles from lust, domestic chores from Beauty and the Beast, ideas from hamburgers, and dying from a train trip cross country.
There are “no things / without the ideas we call them by,” proclaims the book’s opening poem, “American Ghost,” inverting Williams’s dictum not to undermine the dominant aesthetic principle of contemporary American poetry so much as to turn it inside out, to make room for a poetry that oscillates between the ghostly presence of thought and the constant fading of experience. Making their bleak way forward toward the new millennium from the barracuda under a tropical bay to “above the abundant sand of the Sudan,” these poems express the importance of being “grateful for / those interruptions in the blink / of time we had,” while cultivating “the grace to know what to ignore.”
Tradepaper: $20 / ISBN: 978586540975
Casebound: $30 / ISBN: 9781586540982