90 pages, 5½” x 8½”’
Tracy, D. H.
D.H. Tracy’s debut volume, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize, marks a major event in contemporary poetry. Janet’s Cottage collects the richly textured, highly musical poems that have become Tracy’s hallmark in America’s finest literary journals, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. Tracy brings buoyant wit and piercing intelligence to a range of poetic subjects, both intimate and domestic (“Janet’s Cottage”) and exotic and far-flung (“Impressions of the Tribeless”).
Whether he is riffing on a string of clichés, making worn-out phrases shine again, or spinning out a deft conceit that even John Donne himself would have admired, Tracy never fails to surprise and delight. What strikes the reader most about Tracy’s work is the sheer abundance of his imagination. The unique vision of the world that he conveys in poem after poem dazzles at first and is sure to stay with readers long after. “These remarkable poems with their vivid phrasing and startling imagery may “rustle a while/in forever’s hourglass,” as D. H. Tracy puts it. I suspect that they will rustle a lot longer in that captious glass. There seems to be no form or mode of which this poet does not possess a sure mastery. There are reflective elegies which demonstrate his enviable command of the long loping melodious line. But there are also equally impressive quatrains, tightly woven, brilliantly rhymed, which are somehow (I don’t know quite how he does it) alive and fresh; they breathe in their bonds. Many of the poems display a wacky sense of humour, almost surrealistic in effect; these abound with the “willowy and skittish spirits” the poet appears to be on perilously familiar terms with. Grave poems, splendidly cadenced, alternate with mischievous ditties—almost but not quite “light verse,” thanks to the sly sense of a vague menace which runs through them. At the same time, these are exploratory poems in which unexpected landscapes flicker forth and a strangely transformed geography reveals its hidden contours. This is a magical collection of poetry, at once magisterial and sprightly. Each poem from first to last comes with all the elation of sudden discovery.” – Eric Ormsby
Something like a clutch, the two of us
communicate the will to one another
to move, and as one turns the other must,
in contact with his mate, turn with her,
unless the pedal disengages them
and leaves them both to whine alone in air
without a way to know the other’s aim
or use their specious freedom from the pair.
If you protest my model of us makes
one the driving, one the driven, giving
one pride of place, recall life engine-brakes
as often as it climbs, and has us revving
loudest in our worst deceleration,
when on the half that had been blithe about us
is borne a little care with each gyration
to moderate our tumbling apparatus.
So they function best who come to grips,
and travel farthest fastest who beware
the mismatch of intention in the slips
that leave their coupling that much worse for wear;
let us therefore use our hard-won touch
to ride but not to ride it, me and you
pressing close together inasmuch
as is in us to be coming through.
D.H. Tracy’s poems and literary reviews have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Yale Review, The New York Times Book Review, Literary Imagination, The Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Contemporary Poetry Review. He is the winner of the Intense Magazine Poetry Prize and served as editor of the Poetry Foundations online archive.