In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955-2007 (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)
X. J. Kennedy
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For more than half a century, readers and listeners have taken special pleasure in the poetry of X. J. Kennedy. In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus is an ample gathering of his best work: memorable songs, startling lyrics, poems that tell poignant stories, character studies that vie with those of Edwin Arlington Robinson. A master of verbal music, Kennedy has long been praised for his wit and humor; as this collection reveals, many of his poems also reach surprising depths and heights. Donald Hall comments, "many of Kennedy's poems are wit itself. His wit is his way of understanding. No one else writing is capable of the effects in which Kennedy specializes."
This book skims the cream from several slim volumes and six past collections including the prize-winning Nude Descending a Staircase, Cross Ties, and The Lords of Misrule. It restores to print over fifty poems unavailable for decades and adds more than two dozen new poems collected for the first time. Kennedy has long occupied a unique place in American poetry; In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus now offers the first comprehensive collection to span his entire career.
she strode to him, Her light chin level with its rim, So quick her stride and she so skilled At fetching, not a drop she spilled. Steady as hers was his own hand That drew his ripple-muscled colt Shuddering to an abrupt halt With a casual gesture of command— Yet as he reached forth one hand Almost to hers and would take hold, The goblet seemed too huge to take. Because the two of them so shook Neither could ﬁnd the other’s hand. Over the ground the dark wine rolled. 85 Aunt Rectita’s Good
Cemetery Word rustles round the burying-ground Down path and pineconed byway: The Commonwealth craves twelve heroes’ graves For a turn-lane in its highway. Town meeting night, debate is slight. Defenders of tradition Twitter and cheep, too few to keep The dead from fresh perdition. With white-hot gaze emitting rays Observes Selectman Earnwright, “Some stupid corpse just wastes and warps Where trafﬁc needs to turn right!” Embattled still within his hill, One farmer loosed a snicker. “When once ten
Take a lunch break, then revise. The wily old cook who attended them With brandy breath and prescient leer, Would bring Henry notes from Fenimore— Gesù Cristo, these Inglèsi were queer! 3 Henry ﬂed. He wrote back to Fenimore Deft sentiments out of his heart Signed “faithfully,” which, as the weeks went by, Came noticeably farther apart. In a Dolomite Alp inn, Fenimore Stared out across masses of snow In her ﬂimsy chemise, a mere ten degrees Below out. Where now to go? In a palace in Venice,
loving housewives loaded pies With sugar (as “your family deserves”), When soothing syrup smothered babies’ cries And Sanka vanquished Mister Coffee Nerves, When toothpaste came in squooshy tubes of lead, And safety belts in cars seemed passing fads, How in the Sam Hill could you end up dead? Hadn’t you lived according to the ads? 165 Epiphany On the whale-watch boat from Gloucester As waves kept striking, pitching again their tents, Somebody shrieked—one monstrous fullmoon eye Protruded from
oarsmen’s bent wet slopes, Imprisoned in propriety And pagan ethic. Also ropes. Sails strummed. The keel drove tapestries Of distance on the sea’s silk-loom Leaving those simple girls beyond Woven undone rewoven foam To wonder: had they lost their touch? Unbroken yet, a woof of sea Impelled him to his dying dog, Pantouﬂes, and Penelope. 3 Narcissus Suitor He touched her face and gooseﬂesh crept— He loved her, as it were, Not for her look though it lay deep But what he saw in her. 16 Drew her