Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Beautiful False Things

by Irving Feldman

“In a time terrible for poetry, when poets refuse the old sybelline role of Explainer and stick only to what lies frozen on the retinas, Irving Feldman’s stanzas open out into pure interesting-ness: they first enchant, then conjure, then conjecture, then figure out, then interpret. Splashes of beauty, yes–but also a fountain of shameless knowing and inspired telling.” –Cynthia Ozick

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 112
  • Publication Date March 21, 2000
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3657-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 10, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9654-5
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

This tenth collection of Irving Feldman’s poems extends what readers and critics have long recognized to be a body of work singular in its lyric, visionary, even prophetic intensity; its extravagant wit; its powerful storytelling; its variety of voices and range of feeling—playful, tender, ardent, biting, enthralled. Here, among the major poems of Beautiful False Things: the stand-up comic Larry Sunrise of “Funny Bones’ duels with death in Florida; in “Oedipus Host,” Oedipus arrives from his millennia-long trek to host a TV talk show; and the plucky, feminist heroine of “Heavenly Muse” visits yet another barely worthy male poet. In the tragicomic title poem, “translation” comes to stand for the dilemmas of expression in a culture that sucks up language and spews it back.

“Voluptas’

Strange to be remembering how

—was it twenty-odd years ago?—

you drew back from one of our kisses,

your head turning half away so that

I saw in our bedroom’s half light

your lovely profile and eye staring

out toward and into a passing thought.

Then all of half your mouth to mine again

with overwhelmed gentleness.

We both were overwhelmed and pulled under.

Strange suddenly to remember this

after so many, many kisses,

after such years of rupturing.

Caught in our archaic caresses

(you know, that same old, old thing):

a space of five seconds of fresh time,

when nothing was happening

and nothing was happening yet.

And I now its voluptuary.

Praise

“In a time terrible for poetry, when poets refuse the old sybelline role of Explainer and stick only to what lies frozen on the retinas, Irving Feldman’s stanzas open out into pure interesting-ness: they first enchant, then conjure, then conjecture, then figure out, then interpret. Splashes of beauty, yes–but also a fountain of shameless knowing and inspired telling.” –Cynthia Ozick

“Irving Feldman will try anything: Oedipus as a talk show host, Lazarus as a Catskills comedian, the muse as yenta, lovers tripping over the clothes they’re struggling out of, or the cornucopia of a cross-dressing hooker’s dropped purse. He is our best fabulist, Franz Kafka’s imagination combined with S. J. Perelman’s ear, and everywhere his own buoyant, driving line. The botched, the freakish, the sorrowful, the riddling–all come under his gaze, each brushed with his wisdom’s wing. Half shtick, half scripture, these poems sizzle.” –J. D. McClatchy

“Irving Feldman is one of our finest poets, and his new book is a wonder, rising above even the great height of the savage indignation which so potently informed his last two volumes.

A new mode of acute and loving assessment marks so many of these poems in their summoning up of remembrances, avoiding bitterness and moving toward wisdom.” –John Hollander

Excerpt

Chapter One


    The Recognitions


Not the god, though it might have been,
savoring some notion of me
and exciting the cloud where he was hidden
with impetuous thunderstrokes of summoning
–it was merely you who recognized me,
speaking my name in such a tone
I knew you had been thinking it
a long, long time, and now revealed yourself
in this way. Because of this, suddenly
who I was was precious to me.


    Solange Mistral

Ange, tu m’as connu!


I knew that silhouette elegant in black,
that arm upraised, hailing, and stepping toward
a cab in the furious street .

.. who, reaching
to pull the door shut, turned in my direction
–but not, after forty years, the haggard rock,
the supernatural contour of her face, and eyes
as if they’d looked on the purely evil and
utterly boring so long that evil bored
and boredom was itself their only evil.
Then the charred gaze fell blankly on me
–from the blackened stones of a wayside shrine,
an empty place where someone once died
and a last gasp of smoke now clutches at
the luckless, halted passerby, demanding,
Did you think you amused me, fool?
Yes, I, too, had scraped my match, burned and moved on.
After trial by fire is trial by ash.
I bow to the verdict of the embers.


    Testing the Waters


Daylong and then in dreams this testing
the waters–how swift, sweet, thick the course
of things, how cool, consistent, various,
and what the current bears, or bypasses–
so that we can go on and on in the swim
and still be staunch and other than this flowing:
not carried away, not left behind.


    Laura Among the Shades


Honor, and excellence, and transcendent best,
I was the laurels I denominated:
diadem and queen and diadems bearer.
Disdaining tribute from inferior hands,
I crowned myself The Greatest Poet Alive.


And died to pursue opponents far worthier.
I bore my distinction against the famous dead,
and grimly–not their rival, their enemy.
My evergreen shall overgrow their names
grimed on the black page of Oblivion.


My conceit was always larger than myself.
Not vainglory, it was ambition, and meant
to show my complete contempt for poetry.
Accursed the leaves I plucked and poison to me,
my laurels mingled with berries of the nightshade.

Join The Grove Atlantic Mailing List Today.

Newsletters, offers and promotions delivered straight to your inbox.