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978-1-93255-914-9 ($14.00, paperback); 978-1-93255-915-6 ($26.00, hardcover); 978-1-932559-16-3 (PDF, $9.99); 978-1-60235-862-1 (EPUB, $9.99) © 2004 by Parlor Press. 84 pages
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David Mark Book Reviews (11/16/2015)
Jeffrey Thomson’s second collection of poems, The Country of Lost Sons, investigates the narrative environment of childhood, especially the way violence is inscribed on children through myth, culture, and legend. The poems trace the growth of the author’s young son (his vulnerability and equal potential for violence) across a landscape of rewritten myth and narrative. From the Trojan War (bracketed as it is by the deaths of two children, Iphegenia and Astyanax) through the Biblical accounts of Job, Jeremiah, and Jephthah to the modern tragedies of the war in Kosovo, AIDS, and the contemporary culture of violence, the poems build to a culmination of fear that is only tempered by love, grace, and the redemptive power of storytelling itself.
What people are saying about The Country of Lost Sons . . .
In the midst of so many fast-talking contemporary poetry books comes Jeffrey Thomson’s lovely The Country of Lost Sons. Here is a book that chooses tender, meditative music over electric chatter. Here are the poems that tell us poetry can still explore and heal earnestly. More than praise, I want to offer gratitude for such an intimate book. After reading it, you will want to offer gratitude too.
— Terrance A. Hayes
If horror is a given in the world, what place exists for beauty? If children are given in ransom to the gods, what parent can give thanks? The Country of Lost Sons takes Job’s children, and Jephthah’s daughter, and Hector’s son, lost at Troy, and fashions from their stories a cautionary chronicle for our own place and time, where love aspires to the condition of protection, but protection serves merely as prelude to elegy.
Jeffrey Thomson’s The Country of Lost Sons imagines a land where the aggrieved and the grieving come wounded together, across borders of time and nation, epochs of loss and resurrection. There, they are redeemed, if not in fact then in his poems’ muscular music and flint-edged wisdom. So many things “hiss” in these poems—shoes, doors, paper, even grass—we sense the horror lurking within daily graces. It’s this horror Thomson interrogates and then reinvents in the deadly flight of Philoctetes’s arrow and his own son’s small-fisted punch. Beneath the city’s shattered walls—ours, after all—Thomson raises the “terrible blessing of hope.”
The Country of Lost Sons, Jeffrey Thomson’s brilliant new book, shows the poet to be a man deeply read in western and world literature, a poet who sees the past and present, life and art, as inseparable, and yet this knowledge is never forced, never pretentious—just a vital part of life as we live it day to day. How else can we understand the joys and horrors we live except in the context of everyone’s joys and horrors, the book seems to ask. That knowledge and the passion of its saying tips everything toward joy.
About the Author
Jeffrey Thomson is the author of four books of poems, including Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon 2009) and Renovation (Carnegie Mellon 2005). Also forthcoming is a an anthology of emerging poets: From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great co-edited with Camille Dungy and Matt O'Donnell (Persea Books, 2009).
His awards include a 2005 Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 2006 Creative Artists Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the 2008 Felllowship in the Literary Arts from the Maine Arts Commission, as well as fellowships from the Wesleyan Writers Conference, the Sewanee Writers Conference and Writers @ Work.
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