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Short Fiction
Not So the Chairs
by Donald Finkel

Price: $24.00
160 pages
trade cloth
ISBN: 0922811539
LCCN #: 2003006564


By her guttering wick, the Eskimo
strokes with a scrap of caribou hide
the flanks of a burnished ivory bear
slowly the beast begins to glow

even in the hammer’s stolid face
warms, as the carpenter warms to her task
whose forebears pressured blades of flint
so thin they sliced through April mist
and broke on flowers

no labor is ever lost—the years
rise through the ardent carpenter’s roof
shimmering in waves of waste
deep in the steel the atoms dance
beyond the storm, the solemn bear
begins his dance among the stars

"The poems selected from Finkel's earlier work remind us again and again of his poetic versatility, the distinctive power of his voice, and the sheer energy that has characterized his work from the very start. Nor has he lost any of this characeristic vigor, as the two dozen new poems remind us."—Prairie Schooner

"For six decades after his first impulse to write poetry, Donald Finkel writes in his foreword, "I've been a maker—like an honest craftsman, an artificer, a carpenter of words, a member of the tribe of my beloved Chaucer." Not So the Chairs contains 29 new poems and 57 selections from eight of Finkel's previous books. A master of narrative observation like his late wife, the poet and novelist Constance Urdang, Finkel weaves persons, places and events with alternating clarity and intricacy. Finkel studied sculpture and acquired early on a precise, inquisitive vision resembling Chaucer's sharp eye of the human procession. His unique and often subdued voice has long been recognized in American poetry.…Turning to nature, few poets sing more effectively than Finkel.Two of his previous books of poems were nominated for the National Book Critics' Circle Award and another was a finalist for the National Book Award. Not So the Chairs is a fitting capstone to a distinguished career in poetry."—Charles Guenther, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This new collection of poems by Donald Finkel is more than just a retrospective; it is a celebration, a culmination, and an invitation. The selections from Finkel’s earlier collections remind us of the power, the versatility, and the sheer energy that have marked his entire career, while the two-dozen—plus new poems provide compelling evidence that Finkel has lost none of his characteristic vigor, nor any of his idiosyncratic and often acerbic perspective on human activity and experience. These are poems filled with remarkable life and vitality, poems that celebrate life richly lived and minutely observed by a poet whose penetrating eye and distinctive voice engage us even as they challenge us."—Stephen C. Behrendt

"In 'Love Song for an Avocado Plant,' Donald Finkel marvels that 'still she deigns to blossom in this province / of variable weather, fall, and dust.' Wit and sensibility may not save us, but they say a great deal about what we hope to be saved for. In Not So the Chairs: Selected and New Poems, Donald Finkel amply demonstrates the rewards of serving under a soft-spoken, immediate muse. 'The poem is the eye of an angel looking over its shoulder / at its wife, its children, and its car,' he writes, insisting that the poet’s talent and his task are to restore the world to us. This is a rich and intimate collection, at once gently self-deprecating and self-assured, urging gratefulness on every page."—Arthur Saltzman

"What a pleasure, to be able to re-follow Don Finkel’s career, from his early soulful and sassy lyrics, through that moment when 'The Garbage Wars' allows his signature style to trumpet forth clearly, to those later moments of imaginative brio, like that image of hemp-infiltrated potatoes as 'subterranean Platos … turning inward their myriad stone-blind eyes.' For forty-four years, through fame and famine, Don Finkel has been the real deal, and it’s a correspondingly real delight to say hello again to his 'lame angel' and his 'dyspeptic florist' and his lovely language-loving chimps."—Albert Goldbarth

"Reading Donald Finkel’s Not So the Chairs is like digging through the attic of a well-traveled collector, finding treasure after treasure. This book is stuffed with plants, weeds, apes, dogs, angels, strippers, and a fly or two. Finkel, master of the short, powerful line, pulls no punches. He loves life, but that does not keep him from depicting it clearly. His work contains pain and sympathy, hope and fear, sarcasm and deep contentment. I found these poems the valuable souvenirs of a seasoned and thoughtful traveler."—Mary Logue

A lip-smacking reason for glee, this good bill-of-fare from Donald Finkel’s earlier books, and for dessert—just deserts, as he would insist—a bundle of new poems, alert as ever to what Miss Dickinson called the missing all, what this veteran poet knows to be the found parts. Here is the poetry of a man’s whole life, or rather of a whole man’s life, a steady lens where nothing changes—all is changed."—Richard Howard

"Whether turning his attention to jazzmen, lame angels, the perfect beauty of weeds, or chimpanzees and apes learning the imperfect human language, Donald Finkel offers us something of ourselves for our genuine reclamation. Informed by science, history, philosophy, and the lingering glow of last night’s supper, Finkel’s poems are resonant expressions of what it means to live with a wide-open heart—especially in a time that too often seems hell-bent on closing down such dangerously generous operations. Finkel knows that poetry is bigger than the poet; it’s more a calling than a career. So never mind the chatter of relentless po-bizzers. This guy's been working assiduously in the service of honest words and their music for nearly half a century. It’s no wonder, then, that this book is overflowing with Finkel’s distinctive brand of joyful noise."—David Clewell


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