Ladies & Gentlemen

 

With lushness and a perplexity reminiscent of Wallace Stevens, the poems of Michael Robins’ second collection blend allusion—late-20th century rock lyrics to the Gettysburg Address—and negotiate feeling amid a troubled history of the United States. These persistent, cunning voices claim prey and hunter alike: whether a tortured prisoner or the nation’s first colonists who might coexist among the indigenous populations if their “arms could hold steady,” but instead take aim by spreading disease to “the kind people of the new country.” Ladies & Gentlemen is an invitation to the spectacle—and spectral—of American life, where the plugs of ordinary billboards are as probable as the horrors suffered when any people are under siege. John Yau writes, “With the precision of a diamond cutter, Michael Robins taps into the harsh murmurs of the daily world.”

 

“Michael Robins’ Ladies & Gentlemen is a tour de force into a world where the magic of living still dares to go. It is an alternate world where dead deer are more living when dead, where stories are always told wrong, where ‘a milky skin…settles each thing,’ where we fall in love with mysterious Anna ‘basked in perfume,’ and where foxes become commas and with animal bodies split the long-traveled roads. The magic of the book lies also in that Robins does almost the whole thing up in glorious couplets. And if couplets were to be a formal metaphor for the book, it would be that in these poems a source of love and wonder always has its negative evil. And to show us both light and dark is what this book (thankfully) aims to do.”

—Dorothea Lasky

 

“As its title intimates, Ladies & Gentlemen proceeds with a seething civility and Michael Robins’ measured couplets, a failing brace, belie the aggressions we’ve suffered and inflicted as a nation. His poems interrogate citizenship against the backdrop of violence at home and abroad—after a decade of war, where do we stand? Robins’ answer is not easy: ‘difficult to stand if standing / is stance, the wedge between citizen & me.’ These poems speak to us “beyond our spangles,” seeking and even finding intimacy amid the ruins of empire.”

—James Shea

Available at Saturnalia Books, SPD, and Amazon.

Individual poems from Ladies & Gentlemen can be found online at InDigest, Jet Fuel Review, Route Nine, Verse Daily (x2), and Woodland Pattern.