In an illuminating collection of selected poems over thirty-five years, one of our most essential American poets casts a clear eye on our politics, our places, and our heart’s hidden stories.
D. Nurkse’s immigrant parents met on a boat out of Europe in 1940; he was a child of the generation whose anxieties were forged in the shadow of Hiroshima and the aftermath of WWII. His poems extend that child’s dignified ignorance into an open encounter with the cataclysms of the latter twentieth century and with family structures.
Whispers of the old country of Estonia provide the backdrop for the boy’s baseballs, thrown in the fading twilight of the 1950s (“Secretly, I was proudest of my skill / at standing alone in the darkness”). The young man explores sexual passion and the arrival of a child in a young marriage (“We showed her daylight in our cupped hands”), while the mature poet writes of loneliness and community in our cities (“but on the streets / there was no one”), and the urgent need for us to keep expressing our will as citizens.
Throughout this matchless career, over eleven books, Nurkse has crafted visceral lines that celebrate the fragility of what simply exists—birdsong, moonrise, illness, water towers—and the complexity of human perception, our stumble forward through it toward understanding.
About the Author
D. NURKSE is the author of eleven previous books of poetry. His many honors include a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His poems have appeared in periodicals such as The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review; he has taught poetry in prison, and, as Brooklyn poet laureate, in local schools and the public library system. He has also worked for human rights organizations. A resident of Brooklyn, he currently teaches in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.
One of Library Journal's Best Poetry Books of the Year "Nurkse muses knowingly on life and loss, offering intimate, intelligent work with a strong sense of place. The new poems reflect strikingly on loosening bonds and life's diminishing returns in melancholy-mellow verse but remain alert to the world." —Library Journal
"What a joy to have this overview of D. Nurske's marvelous poems - he is a master of lyric mode, one in whose hands the lines come immediately come alive, magic breathes, nuance shimmers and becomes the world all its own, see the doors open into the unknown and we see that it is strangely familiar because strangeness is, in fact, our first language, one we mouthed before words. Welcome to A Country of Strangers, reader--don't be surprised if by the time you finish this terrific book you might feel changed, and at home." —Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa