Troubled Lovers in History

A Sequence of Poems

Albert Goldbarth

“Goldbarth’s wackily polymathic exuberance now confronts his scariest foes yet: human separateness, divorce, the parts of the psyche that split couples up. . . . (Fans of brainy novelists like Richard Powers or David Foster Wallace might love Goldbarth even if they don’t read much poetry.) Goldbarth (who snagged the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1991’s Heaven and Earth) wants to use his mountains of facts, his piles of odd words, to unearth old virtues: his drive toward redemption, pathos and comedy tugs heroically against the drag of his largely sad material. It’s hard to read these poems without hoping for, even rooting for, the poet’s own marriage. They bear a frightened sadness, and a depth, new to Goldbarth’s work: they’re also as energetic and winning as ever.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Prolific poet Goldbarth presents an eccentric and pleasing cycle of poems about the relationships between lovers and between parent and child. Goldbarth’s sensibility is one of the few that deserves to be called cinematic: he works like an avant-garde filmmaker, with the verbal-aesthetic equivalents of jump-cut editing and the hand-held camera. Amusing wherever they are not startling, Goldbarth’s superbly intelligent poems change directions at top speed: ‘There’s an airplane in the skies, from somewhere / out of poetic eternitime, it hides / between the couplets . . . and deposits / a microsurveillance device in one of those alpenroses / you read about. Yes you / —you're being watched.’ Goldbarth is a comic and compelling poet.” —Library Journal

“There is simply no poet like him,” says the Kenyon Review. Albert Goldbarth has been publishing notable collections for a quarter of a century, and in his new work, Troubled Lovers in History, this recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award presents us with a scintillant, poignant look at what he calls “our romantic/marital chemistries.”

Troubled Lovers in History demonstrates an exhilarating range: from the briefest of lyrics to rich and multipartite narrative adventures in exotic realms; from a comic monologue spoken in immigrant “Yinglish” to a soulful elegy set in San Antonio’s Pearl Beer brewery plant; from Martian invaders, through polar explorers, to all of us busy inflicting “words with edges” on those we love.

Goldbarth sets his unflinching study of individual hope and grief against the backdrop of history: the travels of Marco Polo; Bertha and Wilhelm Rontgen’s discovery of X-rays; an 1800 battle “twixt Dragon Sam, the great Exhaler of Gouts of Amazing Flame . . . and Liquid Dan, the Living Geyser.”

From the night stars to the little starring parts we all play every day, Troubled Lovers in History takes us into the text of our dreams and despairs, as witnessed by the writer whom Joyce Carol Oates called “a poet of remarkable gifts—a dazzling virtuoso who can break your heart.”

Albert Goldbarth is Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the department of English at Wichita State University. He is the author of eight other collections of poetry, including Adventures in Ancient Egypt and Marriage, and Other Science Fiction.

Jan 1999 
136 pp. 6 x 9

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