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Since by James Stotts
From the collection:
* * * (untitled)

a sonnet after sixteen weeks

a rough method for reckoning the days

Since // poems by James Stotts // 978-0991622214
October 2016
price: $13.95
paper binding
James Stotts

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The poems collected in Since are simple, and devastating.

Their maker is a father and a husband, a lonely man and a yearning man. His impossibly sober language goes beyond itself, cutting through doubt and surface complexity to touch upon and bring into sight the essential elements common to all people and all things. This is poetry of an old strain, whose elemental wisdom is at no point diluted by pretension or hesitation. It is strong, real speech, powerful in its art.

Yet there is no ferocity, no awkward anger imposing itself between poet and reader. These sonnets, lyrics and fragments admit direct access to a literary awareness of the world. It is a way of feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has walked the pavements after dark, in search of another drink or another source of comfort, and seen the pieces of life assemble themselves, for a fleeting moment, into a coherent whole. Whether this is delusion or a revelation of truth, perhaps doesn't matter. The poems make their own truth.

What more can be said of a debut collection that channels the dignities of Derek Walcott, the perceptual immediacy of Louise Glück, the apt phrasing of Anne Carson, the incongruous imagery of Anthony Hecht? Only that this first book sets a high standard indeed for the next to overtop.

Critical acclaim for the poetry of James Stotts:

Ann Kjellberg, editor, Little Star: "In the poems of James Stotts, a lonely man — hung-over, or a little drunk — navigates his way among the world’s last things. He is saved not by answers but by song: the rhymes come closer, the rhythm approaches the heartbeat, and at the end the language itself seems to offer some simple orientation, a firm bed on which to plant a foot. The reader feels they are eavesdropping on his thoughts, in which he sets so little stock he does not even bother to clothe them in type. And yet these thoughts are born up from beneath by a stately rhetoric as old as Herbert—and indeed the pivot at his final couplets often calls the Metaphysicals to mind."

Melissa Green, author of Magpiety: "Finding Stotts’ poetry, I felt the way one does when you see an athlete, say a figure skater, perform a perfect routine, where the music, the poise, the genius of the body all work sublimely together, and when it’s over, you clap with a concussed kind of joy because you know you have seen something extraordinary."

Irene Koronas, Poetry Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review: "Rich with fresh images, these poems go beyond themselves. Stotts dares to verse the present-day drama in the same way yesterday wrote its story. Since is not a doom’s-day or end of the world reflection, but it is a beginning that has been seen before: 'we’ve come in and out of death—/ the long climb, barefoot, up the rocks// was just like the morning/ plucked with His fingers from the cool atlantic'. This is lyric poetry that teases; converses; connects us to the characters and ideas god may have for us, or to god as lost meaning."

About the author:

James Stotts was born in 1982, the last of five children, in southern Colorado, and grew up in New Mexico. He studied Russian literature and linguistics at the University of New Mexico, was a research assistant in Russian at Boston College, and has translated the Russian poetry of Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Esenin, Brodsky, Boris Ryzhy and others. He has traveled and studied in Russia on numerous occasions. He lives in Boston with his wife and son.

Click here to visit the Best American Poetry blog to read appreciative comments about Stotts' work, written by the blog's guest editor.