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By Richard Greenfield
96 pages (6 x 9 paper)
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Beyond speaking of possession and dominance, which so often come cloaked in the placating language of stewardship; beyond speaking as merely an observer of the destruction wreaked upon the natural and social environments of this planet -- Richard Greenfield's TRACER brings us back to our senses. In an examination of the savage, and savagely beautiful particularity of our existence, this is equally and essentially a poetry that respects, even as it implicates, the mystery and peril of speaking through one's own limited frame. A word might at one moment allude to the 'tracer' who exposes an image's delicate outline and then, at the next, to the 'tracer' rounds that lethally illuminate a target in the dark. These lyric poems are deeply ethical and austerely honest in their implication of, and reflections upon, the limits of morality and honesty. Nonetheless, this is also a poetry that seeks to emancipate the voice of witness from the generalities of despair through its exacting engagement with this world.
Richard Greenfield is the author of A Carnage in the Lovetrees (University of California Press), which was listed as a Top Ten University Press Book by BookSense in 2003. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Electronic Poetry Review, Five Fingers Review, Lit, Soft Targets, Volt, and others. He is co-editor of Apostrophe Books, a small press of poetry. Born in Hemet, California, he spent his early childhood in Southern California and later lived in the Pacific Northwest. He earned a PhD in English from the University of Denver, where he was a Frankel Fellow.
In a society intent on local and global violence, the crisis of the poet emerges as the need, amidst the narrowing of imagination and empathy to the point of cold darkness and inanition (Blake's "Newton's Sleep"), to recall the mind in its freedom. In TRACER Richard Greenfield targets that site of willed destruction with poems that acknowledge the reality of most Americans, traumatized by far-off killings and maimings, yet still intact: "We can't tell ourselves / from those whose loss is actual." Hope arises from a poetry of bodily and spiritual vulnerabilities where trauma, along with human and natural beauty, seeps in unannounced as such, where speakers are nonetheless invited to grow realized
in proximity to unnameable violence. Blake again: "A Skylark wounded in the wing / A Cherumbim does cease to sing." Written in a language and affect that mostly lie stealthily below the radar of the sensational, Greenfield's poems at times erupt in unexpected juxtapositions as a reminder of our ambient surreality. Wonderfully satisfying and memorable, these poems console, celebrate, and stimulate at the same time.
—Jeffrey C. Robinson
“Poetry of the outskirts—‘the old world is still out there, too/where the roads are intraworking.’ By way of open rifts and dazzling disintegrations, Greenfield traces the cracks and fissures of ordinary life in its reach to otherness. The work here is fierce, tender, and precise.”