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Urban Flowers, Concrete Plains, Jerry Harp’s third volume of poems, takes up where his first book, Creature (Salt Publishing, 2003), left off. The Creature continues his sojourn in the world, solitary, wandering, waiting for someone though he does not know who. He is his sole society, and he would select a place were someone to look his way. His language is a prison house, and he is himself the cell he seeks to escape. Although Harp’s Creature is human, he hesitates over such a term as ‘human,’ with all its centuries of detritus, grips, and gripes. According to the traditional philosophy and theology in which Harp is schooled, a creature is anything that is not the Creator; thus, rocks, humans, and angels all are creatures. The Creature much prefers this much more general term, which emphasizes his solidarity with sidewalks, streets, and clouds. The Creature knows that there is meaning in the world, though nor for him, he fears – or rather, he resigns himself to meaning passing him by. If nothing else, he’ll watch as one might take in a parade. Neither alter-ego nor conventional character, Harp’s persona is a creature made out of words, a way of experimenting with various and shifting mental modes and language states. The Creature is a wayward thing who speaks and strolls and stands dumbfounded, sometimes, at what he overhears himself say.
‘Harp’s poems insinuate themselves into the mind and are full of little phrases that provoke the imagination.’ —Jim Burns, Ambit
‘in the poems in this volume, all soliloquies, Jerry Harp make wonderful use of everyday utterance to get at extraordinary ideas’ —Carol Niederlander, Pleiades
‘Harp’s ‘Creature’ is sometimes funny and often poignant in his embodiment of experienced postmodern alienation.”’ —Wayne Miller, American Book Review
‘From the opening poem featuring angels engaged in a game of cribbage through the final third of the collection, devoted to poems featuring the title ‘Creature,’ a troubled character at odds with the world he inhabits, Harp consistently creates memorable moments.”’ —Rob Cline, Iowa City Press Citizen
‘The inner landscape of the speaker’s mind will keep haunting us with the possibilities of meaning that cannot be paraphrased without fatal loss to their suggestive beauties, the vagaries of what we used to call the ‘human condition.’ These poems remain ‘mired’ (and rightly so) in a love of this world and its inscrutable specificities, together with an occasional but devastating critique of its ‘cruelties,’ with sporadic allusions added to something transcendent though ineffable.”’ —Steven C. Scheer, Steven C. Scheer’s Web of Words