Combinations of the Universe

Albert Goldbarth

“The publication of a new Goldbarth is what we used to call a happening, both far-out and groovy, even like the Olympics or the World Series. Reading one of his books is like visiting Disney World, Vegas, the Library of Congress, and Graceland all on the same day. Poem after poem comes from seemingly inexhaustible stores of learning, a terribly large heart, a serious sensibility and soul, and a sense of humor that makes us laugh as well as come to feel, learn, know.” —David Citino

In 2002, Albert Goldbarth became the only writer to twice receive the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. In so honoring Saving Lives, Joe David Bellamy said as part of the NBCC citation, “If the essence of poetry is performing ‘feats of association,’ as Robert Frost used to claim, then Albert Goldbarth’s wild eclecticism is high art indeed because Goldbarth finds startling and intricate connections where no one else has thought to look. For him, nearly every poem is an opportunity to encompass the universe in all its randomness and bizarre beauty. He beguiles with many a bracing fact and with a conglomeration of emotion one could hardly imagine co-existing in such proximity—a vast architecture of desire and regret, anguish and knowledge, elation and elegy.”

Now, in a book whose subjects range from the high gods of antiquity to the low blows of divorce-spite, and whose strategies move from a seven-line poem about birth to a twenty-page study of contemporary disjunction, Goldbarth expands triumphantly upon his earlier work. For all its lively variety, however, Combinations of the Universe is not so much a collection of separate pieces as a poet’s version—steeped in our human sweat and dazzle—of the cutting-edge physicist’s grand attempt to unify the far-flung elements of our human condition.

In these pages you’re invited to join Rembrandt; Petrarch; painter Mary Cassatt, whose “looking never lied”; a retired astronaut; a number of flying saucer contactees; a baseball that’s really the Buddha; and the rest of the various population here (including your neighbors), on an adventure in twenty-first-century poetry. Combinations of the Universe is a gala volume from a writer of whom Judith Kitchen, in Georgia Review, said, “he just may be the American poet of his generation for the ages.”

Albert Goldbarth is Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Department of English at Wichita State University. He is author of over twenty collections of poetry.

Dec 2002
200 pp. 6 x 9

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