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The President of Earth gathers the best and most exciting of David Kennedy’s poetry from the mid-1980s onwards. Ranging from graceful, evocative lyrics and mysterious dream-like narratives through alert cultural observations and hilariously inventive cut-ups, Kennedy’s work explores poetry as way of behaving in language that is also a way of behaving in the world.
The President of Earth is divided into three sections. ‘Histories’ gathers new and selected poems to represent the full range of Kennedy’s concerns: the city and the consumer, home and the world, England and Englishness, past dreams of the future, the modern experience of living inside accelerated change, and the consequences of the collapse of hierarchies of meaning. ‘Cities’ offers further explorations of that collapse and its consequences with a sequence of cut-up sonnets that revel in the energies generated by collisions between diction and content. The book culminates with a long extract from ‘Gardens’, an ambitious sequence-in-progress which uses a range of historical and contemporary voices to explore the garden as a repository of cultural meanings.
Reviewing the book in Poetry Review, Simon Jenner noted that the poetry is characterised by “an aleatory dream narrative, an associative richness” and concluded: “The openings draw one in but … the journey, as in Cavafy’s ‘Ithika’ is all. One arrives at the end of his poems … entranced.”
‘He has an obvious lyric talent and the poems are often artfully underwritten; they have an oddly shifted sense of perspective, perhaps with just a dash of [ … ] New York hot sauce’ —Tony Frazer, Shearsman
‘Kennedy offers an unblinking poetics free of specious closure [ … ] The journey, as in Cavafy’s ‘Ithika’, is all. One arrives at the end of his poems [ … ] entranced.’ —Simon Jenner, Poetry Review
‘Kennedy’s poetry is full of quirky argumentation and aleatory charm: ‘A Walking Lunch’, ‘What Pefkos Said’ and ‘Horse Chestnut’ are all fine and more than fine poems.’ —Metre
‘Kennedy has a painterly eye. He has an almost loving concern for “things’ and ‘objects’ in their variousness and palpability …’ —Prop
‘The influence of the New York School is unmistakeable ... mingled with his wry self-deprecating humour ... Wonderfully understated’ —Blade