2001 National Book Critics Circle award for poetry

Saving Lives


Albert Goldbarth



170 pp. 6x9

$21.95 paper 978-0-8142-5073-0
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“Goldbarth’s sensibility conceivably owes as much to Barnum as to Whitman. Yet if Goldbarth were merely out to cook up ever-more outlandish diversions, the novelty would have long ago worn thin. For all of his madcap gusto and wise-ass shtick, Goldbarth's most engaging trait is his deep and abiding soulfulness, a generosity of spirit that elevates clowning into eloquent feeling and places brashness at the service of spacious passions.” —Poetry

“These poems are full of snap, wit, humor, wisdom, and unabashed love for the people and things that this writer will not let go unspoken—unsaved—in his world. Language is a garden he painstakingly, lovingly tends, and the reader is the grateful beneficiary of his unique and heartfelt labors.” —David Clewell, Jack Ruby’s America

Albert Goldbarth “just may be the American poet of his generation for the ages,” says Judith Kitchen in a recent feature on him in the Georgia Review. “Often humorous but always serious, Goldbarth combines erudite research, pop-culture fanaticism, and personal anecdote in ways that make his writings among the most stylistically recognizable in the literary world.” This new volume, Saving Lives, both consolidates and extends his passions and their presentations.

The poems range from a few tight, resonant lines to works of long storytelling drive, from sequences that encompass the most flexible of free verse to an homage to the sestina. Some center on familiar cultural icons (Rembrandt, Houdini, Barnum, the Hardy Boys), others on little-known fringe players in subculture’s oddest unlit corners, and yet others on family histories. But always they examine an essential subject: the ways in which we try to “save lives”—whether through a transplanted lung, the archeological remnant, the conserved book.

As ever, Goldbarth dazzles, displaying an energetic mind eager to share his arcane learning, oddball musings, and observations of intimate moments, joys, and despairs. A zany wit and a generous sense of humanity reign equally. Saving Lives only enhances this writer’s grand signature tradition.

Albert Goldbarth is Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Department of English at Wichita State University. He is the author of over twenty collections of poetry, including Troubled Lovers in History (Ohio State University Press).