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Twenty First Century Blues
1st Edition
Richard Cecil
Other Formats
112 pages, 6 x 9

About the Book

Death, fame, art, and religion become comic subjects in Twenty First Century Blues, the fourth collection from Richard Cecil. Whether elegizing his predecessors, predicting his own end, channeling Dickinson’s “corpse-eye-view of stony death,” or imagining Yeats living in Indiana and dealing with English department politics, Cecil tempers his morbidity with a straightforward, tender brand of humor and a refreshing honesty about the shelf life of contemporary poetry. Deadpan and dark, yet pulsing with the spirit of life, these poems speak of historic France, Italy, and Switzerland, where religious persecutions, ancient catastrophes, and other, less personal, failures overshadow the disappointments and shortcomings of the poet’s modern life in the Midwest. Grimly cheered by these revelations, Cecil shows that poets, like cicadas screaming in the summer air, “won’t shut up until we’re skeletons.” 


Richard Cecil teaches in the Department of English and the Honors College of Indiana University, as well as in the Spalding University Brief-Residency MFA Program. A winner of the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry, he is the author of three previous books of poetry, Einstein’s Brain, Alcatraz, and In Search of the Great Dead. His poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Georgia Review, New England Review, and many other journals.


Twenty First Century Blues speaks to all of us whose lives fall short of the triumphs we had planned. Yet the jaundice in Richard Cecil’s eye is offset by clear vision. This book tells bitter truths, redeemed by memory, by wit, by craft, by accurate and resonant details. These poems say ‘I came, I saw, I did not conquer, exactly, but I understood, I laughed, I celebrated by writing this down.’”

—Charles Harper Webb

“Richard Cecil’s most distinguished poems range persistently along, accumulating data until patterns and conclusions that have been latent become apparent. Again and again a faith in the lurking significance of things pays off, and the early particulars add up to revelation.”—William Stafford

“Cecil’s poems are powerful, moving, and original. There is clarity, honesty, and delightful quirkiness. He captures—he recaptures—the human situation. He is just as shocking, radical, and aggravating, in his way, as language poets, for instance, are in theirs. He makes it almost possible—let me say possible—for a well-educated generalist to read poetry again.”—Gerald Stern


“Cecil suggests metaphorically his pursuit of all things deemed precious and abandoned or lost. It is a serious theme, and a difficult one to carry off, but Cecil does it again and again, looking squarely into the depths of experience with a great dry wit, and without resorting to nostalgia. . . . Perhaps no poet since Larkin has treated the romance of hope to such a helping of irony and come off in the barely possible human affirmative.”—Rodney Jones


“The technical skill and humor on display . . . make it likely that Cecil’s poems will be read long after he joins that ever-longer roll call of poets who have passed on.”

—Al Maginnes, Quarterly West 


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