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This book contains poems from Reiss’s first four books, as well as rollicking new work in his fifth volume, Slap Me Five and his sixth collection of darkly humorous and downright hilarious rhyming satirical anti-war verse, A Child’s Garden of Evil. From the elegies and spiels in The Breathers (1974), to the New York poems and Asian travel pieces in Express (1983), to the homages to Mexico and the narratives in The Parable of Fire (1996), to the cris de coeur and “staircase stanzas” in Ten Thousand Good Mornings (2001), Reiss uses language memorably – memorizably – with musical and painterly effects.
Whether you go along with New York Times Book Review critic Helen Vendler, who wrote of The Breathers: “In Reiss, poems are laid in drawers, folded in books; memories are like pictures cut out of magazines, inertia and insomnia are the two forms of life. Pursued by the same phantoms, which reappear on the telephone, in sequential rooms, in snapshots, in slides, Reiss writes them down in an accomplished plain style, with a momentum carrying whole poems along on the humming acceleration of a single sentence” – or you listen to Laurel Blossom, who wrote in The American Book Review, of Ten Thousand Good Mornings: “Reiss can deploy rhyme, alliteration, assonance, the caesura, and a variety of poetic forms, from couplets to concrete, just for the fun of it, and with a skill that, more often than not, works for the poems rather than against them” – Reiss will not disappoint you.
‘Filled with the unpredictable details that fill city life, Reiss’ poems carry the reader along, like fellow passengers in the express subway car, traveling through familiar (sometimes not so friendly) locales while following the poet’s train of throught.… Whatever slice of life he chooses, Reiss’s typical American experiences come through-fresh, affectionately direct, touchingly true.’ —Booklist
‘Throughout this exemplary collection, the actual is perceived in all its four dimensions: the three that are described by the physical world, and the fourth which lies just behind and is described only by the noumenal eye…. Even a casual conversational style does not come without hard labor. In these poems, the labor is of course invisible to us. We have only these jazzy lines: poems that are enjoyable and, in several instances, significant.’ —Frederick Smock, American Book Review
‘Although these poems do not make grand pronouncements they have as their source what Howard Nemerov called ‘great primary human drama,’ and they are always interesting and often moving.’ —Peter Meinke, The New Republic
‘In Reiss, poems are laid in drawers, folded in books; memories are like pictures cut out of magazines, inertia and insomnia are the two forms of life. Pursued by the same phantoms, which reappear on the telephone, in sequential rooms, in snapshots, in slides, Reiss writes them down in an accomplished plain style, with a momentum carrying whole poems along on the humming acceleration of a single sentence.’ —Helen Vendler, The New York Times Book Review