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Empire Burlesque

Mark Svenvold

“Svenvold is . . . able to traverse natural landscapes alongside the finest contemporary nature poets, as well as adroitly map urban and suburban landscapes. In fact, landscape and geography serve to propel the reader through the volume; one reads the collection, perhaps, the way one would read a frontier—identifying and mapping, naming and investigating, staking claim, recognizing the reflective relationship between the human internal world and the external world.” —The Literary Review

“It’s pure pleasure to read a book that erupts from such a clear, inspired vision. Mark Svenvold’s Empire Burlesque is the most original, ambitious book of poems I’ve read in years—it rolls over you like a giant wave. You never know who’s going to show up in these poems, or where they’re going next, but in the end, it all seems perfect, inevitable.” —Jim Daniels, author of Blue Jesus, and Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies

“A late 20th century landscape, Empire Burlesque moves over our particular continent, landing in a few chosen districts of time and geography, each poem a record of surroundings, of dictions, of many marvelous details that parallel the odysseys of the human heart. Svenvold’s love of language and wonderful ear for history make for a wild music.”—Sophie Cabot Black, author of The Descent: Poems and The Misunderstanding of Nature: Poems

Empire Burlesque begins with a romp through the Journals of Lewis and Clark and ends with cameo appearances by Ambrose Bierce, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound (in drag), Andy Warhol, and even King Kong. Mark Svenvold was inspired to this approach, which he describes as that of a “clown lost in the Library of Babel,” by the letters of Jules Laforgue, who believed clowns had achieved true wisdom. With this collection the author shares Ezra Poundian–inflected poems that are funny, that are as serious as they come, and that realign the personal with the historical.

Mark Svenvold’s poetry has been published widely in Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, The Iowa Review, The Journal, and Swink. He is winner of a Discovery/The Nation poetry prize; and his first collection of poems, Soul Data, won the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, selected by Heather McHugh. His nonfiction books are Big Weather: Chasing Tornadoes in the Heart of America (Henry Holt and Company, 2005) and Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw (Basic Books, 2002). He has written for Best Life and Harper’s and is currently working on an article for The New York Times Magazine about North America’s first solar-hydrogen residence. He lives and works in New York City.

Nov 2007
68 pp. 6x9

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The Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry

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