David Gewanter University of Chicago Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3557.E897F678 2018 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Who are the lords of labor? The owners, or the working bodies? In this smart, ambitious, and powerful book, David Gewanter reads the body as creator and destroyer—ultimately, as the broken mold of its own work.
Haunted by his father’s autopsy of a workman he witnessed as a child, Gewanter forges intensely personal poems that explore the fate of our laboring bodies, from the Carnegie era’s industrial violence and convict labor to our present day of broken trust, profiteering, and the Koch brothers. Guided by a moral vision to document human experience, this unique collection takes raw historical materials—newspaper articles, autobiography and letters, court testimony, a convict ledger, and even a menu—and shapes them into sonnets, ballads, free verse, and prose poems. The title poem weaves a startling lyric sequence from direct testimony by steelworkers and coal-miners, strikers and members of prison chain-gangs, owners and anarchists, revealing an American empire that feeds not just on oil and metal, but also on human energy, impulse, and flesh. Alongside Gewanter’s family are hapless souls who dream of fortune, but cannot make their fates, confronting instead the dark outcomes of love, loyalty, fantasy, and betrayal.
In the Belly
David Gewanter University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3557.E897I5 1997 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
"Gewanter's poetry offers a sense of obstacles, and of obstacles not overcome but ridden and thus dealt with, and is nowhere better illustrated than in 'Conduct of Our Loves.' Read this poem in the book store and you will want to buy the book."—Thom Gunn
The Sleep of Reason
David Gewanter University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3557.E897S57 2003 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
The Sleep of Reason plunges us into a macabre world where good impulses bring on evil consequences—a world not unlike our own. In David Gewanter's alternately delightful and startling poems, allegory comes alive and stalks a bookstore's musty aisles, comedians eviscerate their families for a laugh, lovers love each other for withholding affection, and theaters collapse on audiences hungry for spectacle. Amidst such surreal subjects, Gewanter's delicate musicality and keen sense of humor sparkle; his inquisition regarding a fallen world becomes a dark comedy of errors haunted by the most unexpected characters—from JFK Jr. to Tacitus, Redd Foxx to General Motors, Mariah Carey to 100 rabbits with herpes. An offbeat satire for an off-kilter age, The Sleep of Reason offers an incisive guide to moral behavior in an immoral world.
David Gewanter University of Chicago Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3557.E897W37 2009 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
From Three at 4:43
And here comes my friend, limping on
his heavy boot, the heel come off. A cobbler's shop
appears, and I buy the black nails, the dwarf's hammer, glue and strapping.
I work hard on it, bending there
until he speaks and walks on.
But as he is dead, his voice and step
make no sound.
In his third book of poems, David Gewanter takes on wartime America, showing our personal costs and inextricable complicities. The constructs of our social lives, the conventions of our political values, the ambitions of our private fantasies—all these collide comically and tragically. Here, the far right marries the far left, and the sacred is undone by the profane. Gewanter's ironic vision pulls together details from science, history, philosophy, the disappearing dailies, and the emotional life of an engaged and singular mind into poems on the move with tense rhythms, rich correspondences, and daring hairpin turns. War Bird gives the lie to the shining moral complacencies of the homefront. Unsettling yet radiant, this collection is a book for troubled times, for what Whitman called, in “1861,” our “hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.”