Walker, Shuffle and Breakdown
for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize2005, 2006
pp, ISBN: 978-1-904130-31-4, £7.99 (paperback only),
November 1st 2008
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note about Shuffle and Breakdown |
Shuffle and Breakdown, his first collection and a finalist for the Anthony
Hecht Poetry Prize in 2005 and 2006, is a work of comic brilliance and devastating
irony. From "Abbott and Costello: The Alzheimer's Years" to a series
of letters to Whitman from his imagined grandson, this is a wondrous strange book
that operates with the precise timing of a great joke, while bracing itself for
dissolution and worse.
A note on Cody Walker
Walker was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967. He holds a B.A. from the University
of Wisconsin, an M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas, and a Ph.D. from the
University of Washington. He received the James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry
from Shenandoah in 2003 and a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University
of Washington in 2005. A longtime writer-in-residence in Seattle Arts & Lectures
Writers in the Schools program, he was elected Seattle Poet Populist in 2007.
His work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Parnassus, Slate,
Subtropics, Light, Sewanee Theological Review, and elsewhere.
In 2009 hell begin a term as the Amy Clampitt Resident Fellow in Lenox,
Praise for Shuffle and Breakdown
need your wits about you when you read this astonishing book. Cody Walker keeps
working surprises, setting traps, yanking rugs from underfoot and I must
say, I enjoyed myself no end. Escalation, 2007, for instance, sounds
as if written by a Mother Goose high on LSD. Walker is unique, no mere trickster
but a serious craftsman who blurs the line of demarcation between sober poetry
and light verse. Though he sometimes writes in forms usually frivolous
limericks, double dactyls, clerihews he can do so with dark import. An
amazing series of letters from a fictitious grandson of Walt Whitman is alone
worth the price of admission.
X. J. Kennedy
this case, the voice comes from some ways off, at an unexpected angle. Cody Walkers
poems are singular, and severally strong. Shuffle and Breakdown is more
than an assemblage; its a collection with a subtending architecture, so
that while one is savoring local pleasures a brash simile, an odd and antic
rhyme one is aware of the books shapely whole. Like Roethke, who
also had a Pacific Northwest background, Walker makes adroit use of fractured
nursery rhyme. Like Whitman, with whom he shares a taste for the out-flung, Walker
means to be comprehensive. But Shuffle and Breakdown is more than a toting
up of its influences. Heres a wry and rueful and utterly appealing new sensibility.
Reviews of Shuffle and Breakdown
Online, November 2009
I am an avid reader of contemporary poetry, I understand why many people, predisposed
to the art because of their appreciation of the great poems of the past, have
chosen to ignore its current practitioners. Unless you stay up with theoretical
or conceptual models, some contemporary poetry can seem impenetrable, or at least
doesn't appear to give enough compensation for the effort the reader must give
it. Sometimes the language can seem completely flat, with none of the interesting
sound patterns we expect from poems.
but not always: witness the delightful and provocative poetry of Cody Walker.
Recently arrived in Ann Arbor from Seattle, where he was once elected Seattle
Poet Populist, Walker published his first book, Shuffle and Breakdown, just a
few months ago. In it, Walker shows that he can be smart without being pretentious,
formal without being conservative, and funny without being slight. He has an ease,
even a fascination with often dismissed forms, and plays with them in new ways
Walker includes some short prose poems that he calls 'The Cheney Correspondence
(Selected).' There are surprising numbers of contemporary poems that deal in one
way or another with the former vice president; I think poets could simply not
believe he really said and did some of the things he did, so they tried to present
some kind of sensitivity in the face of his callousness. Walker simply assumes
that the vice president would be interested in a shared humanity. 'Dear Dick Cheney,'
he writes, 'When I was younger I wanted to be a baseball player. But I can't remember
whether I loved baseball, or whether I just wanted everyone to love me. A confession,
then: I still want everyone to love me blindly, entirely, without sense
or reason. Even you, whom I've regularly excoriated. Fondly, Cody Walker.' Of
course the moment is funny precisely because we all know Cheney wouldn't care
in the least. Keith Taylor
read the full review, please click on the link below
I wouldn't want to leave anyone with the impression that this poet is only funny.
Shuffle and Breakdown ends with a series of poems written by Walt Whitman's mythical
grandson to the near-dead master. One poem, claiming to be written from Chicago
in 1891, has these lines: "I wrote you a long letter last week,/then threw
it in the lake. It ended/Your optimism is wrong. It alone/sustains me."
Shuffle and Breakdown
just dont want everyone to remember him as the guy who fell off the balcony
he was so much more to us. from The Daily of the University
he sent gingerbread to the criminally forlorn.
Say he left too soon, like Thomas
Say he brokered a truce between the buckthorn and the peppercorn.
he was loved; he must have been.
in a blintz.
Bats in a belfry.
Caveats in a billet-doux.
YOU EVER WONDER HOW
EARLY MAN EXISTED WITHOUT TV?
Helena Bonham Carter! Hold me in your arms.
(I have a crush on you, Helena
duty in Iraq.
KKK at the A&P.
Loss. De lunatico inquirendo.
me in Old Manhattan,
near the abandoned oyster farm,
or better, go to Hell,
Paradise and be quick.
DID HORNDOG LBJ
REALLY HAVE ORAL SATORI
SEX IN HOTEL BATH-
in ruins. Cosmic
year, complete. Rub dub
Zagreb (who cares) Yugoslavia.