In Anthony Carelli's remarkable debut, Carnations, the poems attempt to reanimate dead metaphors as blossoms: wild and lovely but also fleeting, mortal, and averse to the touch. Here, the poems are carnations, not only flowers, but also body-making words. Nodding to influences as varied as George Herbert, Francis Ponge, Fernando Pessoa, and D. H. Lawrence, Carelli asserts that the poet's materials--words, objects, phenomena--are sacred, wilting in the moment, yet perennially renewed. Often taking titles from a biblical vocabulary, Carnations reminds us that unremarkable places and events--a game of Frisbee in a winter park, workers stacking panes in a glass factory, or the daily opening of a café--can, in a blink, be new. A short walk home is briefly transformed into a cathedral, and the work-worn body becomes a dancer, a prophet, a muse.
A river. And if not the river nearby, then a dream
of a river. Nothing happens that doesn't happen
along a river, however humble the water may be.
Take Rowan Creek, the trickle struggling to lug
its mirroring across Poynette, wherein, suspended,
so gentle and shallow, I learned to walk, bobbing
at my father's knees. Later, whenever we tried
to meander on our inner tubes, we'd get lodged
on the bottom. Seth, remember, no matter how we'd
kick and shove off, we'd just get lodged again?
At most an afternoon would carry us a hundred feet
toward the willows. We'd piss ourselves on purpose
just to feel the spirits of our warmth haloing out.
And once, two bald men on the footbridge, bowing
in the sky, stared down at us without a word.
Anthony Carelli was raised in Poynette, Wisconsin, and studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before completing an MFA in poetry at New York University. His poems have appeared in various magazines, including the New Yorker. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is his first book.
"There is no poem entitled Carnations in Carelli's first collection. But affection is its master mood, the affection of a vital young man for the world of his experience. . . . They're real experiences, conducive to mixed feelings, yet Carelli writes of them in language so enlivening and fresh that they become blessings, which may be why most of the poems have churchly and theological titles."--Ray Olson, Booklist
"Carnations pays homage to the poet's masters and ushers in an exciting new talent. . . . [T]his wonderful collection is as good a guide as they get."--Piotr Florczyk, On the Seawall blog
"Readers may fervently wish that this promisingly talented writer never quits his day job, as warming student egos in classrooms might possibly prove less inspirational than pies in Brooklyn."--Benjamin Ivry, Newark Star-Ledger
"I picked up Anthony Carelli's Carnations, a first collection, not expecting to linger but curious, not least because Princeton's outstanding contemporary poets series, edited by Paul Muldoon, is reliably unpredictable. And as soon as I had started, I was charmed. . . . He is able to write in a way that allows for the sublime and the absurd to come together. But Carelli's free-flowering humour never distracts from his purpose and the ending is masterly."--The Observer (Poetry Book of the Month)
"This is a magnificent book. . . . Ooh! God bless these poems!"--Raphael Allison, Rain Taxi Review of Books
"[W]arm, conversational and colloquial."--Keith Richmond, Tribune
Table of Contents:
The Sabbath 1
Glass Work Song 3
The Prophets 6
The Muse 7
The Crusades 10
The Builder 12
The Collar 13
The Apostles 16
The Chance 19
In Ordinary Time 20
October Advent 21
The Begats 23
The Shepherd 27
Lectio Divina 28
The Hours 30
Agnus Dei 32
The Brooklyn Heavens 35
Original Sin 41
No, Euripides 46
Apples for Thoreau 48
The Crucifixion 51
The Lord’s Prayer 52
The Disciples 54