A Few of Her Secrets

George BradleyPublication: February 10th, 2011

£8.99

A Few of Her Secrets is George Bradley's first collection of poems in ten years, and Bradley's many admirers will be sure to think that it was well worth the wait. The collection's high-spirited and adroit poems aim to entertain in the best sense of the word, and they range widely in subject and tone. The book includes amused and occasionally caustic observations regarding America's “culture wars”; enthusiastic and witty renderings of Italian food recipes; and heartfelt yet unsentimental meditations occasioned by the deaths of relatives. As poet and critic Eric Ormsby puts it, Each of this poet’s previous collections has been an event. A Few of Her Secrets may be his finest achievement yet.

ISBN: 978-1-904130-42-0 Extent: 72pp Category:

A Few of Her Secrets

The poems in George Bradley’s brilliant new collection have conspiratorial accents; we find ourselves drawn into unsettling confidences, disclosures at once playful and appalling. These are poems of great formal mastery and of elegant wit and yet the artistry is suavely unobtrusive; Bradley is a practitioner of that ‘piercing virtue’ which Emily Dickinson, another connoisseur of renunciation, extolled. His engagement with our popular culture is one of exasperated affection but he views our fads, our pastimes, our patterns of speech from the perspective of antiquity; he’s an American poet with what might be called a Roman cast of mind – reflected not only in his profoundly Virgilian sense of ‘a mortal rapture in all things’ but in seven poems of mouth-watering Italian recipes. The collection begins just outside the gates of Eden, guarded by ‘gladiate fire,’ and extends into an uneasy future. There is the best poem yet written on 9/11, ‘Advisory,’ a set of variations on September with its heartbreaking ‘baby blue’ sky. There are gnomic utterances, sudden aphorisms, ecstatic phrases that, as he suggests, ‘exfoliate the callus that facilitates evasion.’ Bradley is a learned poet; he deploys echoes of Milton and Auden and Christopher Smart, as well as the Bible, but does so with such wry panache that the allusions are continually refreshed. Each of this poet’s previous collections has been an event. A Few of Her Secrets may be his finest achievement yet. It is a rare pleasure in these unpropitious times to witness a poet exulting in all the registers of the language and having such enormous delight in his art. – Eric Ormsby

Advisory

for Jim Kehoe

September’s lovely in New York, the sky
Returned to baby blue, the breeze now mild
As breath, and if you’ve anything at all
Important planned, now’s when to do it: fall
In love, begin a book, beget a child,
Marry, get religion, learn to fly.

September’s stunning, even on so odd
An island as Manhattan, of all places
Least like landscape: climate cannot bungle
This month without a more than urban jungle,
Without an icecap, or those desert spaces
Composed of dust and emptiness and God.

September’s drop-dead gorgeous or it’s plain
Disaster here, airborne catastrophe,
Some sub-tropical depression, say,
Originating half a world away
And gaining, as it moves across the sea,
The turbine fury of a hurricane.

Still, September’s dangerous days are few,
Whirlwinds tracked worldwide. You can assume
Responsible officials will foresee
Such turmoil; you can count on your TV
For early warning. There are those for whom
This hasn’t worked, but it should work for you.

I know a man who paused to say goodbye
With care to those he loved one morning, fold
Them in his arms, and just that slight delay
Spared him on a bright September day
When air turned ash, the center could not hold,
The quickly dead fell burning from the sky.

Based on a True Story

No, not equal to, not ever, for all
it couples in public vehicles and crawls
through sewers as through astonishing bars
of light, of music, but rather a bizarre
bazaar of retailed wisdom and aperçu
happily assembled out of what you
will, so that it variously contains
a woman, a bed, wind and rain,
heaven and hell, a mouse’s nest,
a winter’s midnight dressed
in radiant bolts of shimmer shots,
its construct ad hoc on its base yet not
the thing itself, being for better and worse
a derivation, a version and perverse.
Put much in and most is left
over, the sprawled magnitude of evasion deft.
Leave everything out and some trace
inheres in what sparse space
affords. Pare it down, puff
it up, it cannot be pruned or plumped enough
to be coterminous with its occasion, but must extend
elsewhere, more rational and pointed, to an end
and to our eyes
more moving. More shapely. More concise.

Excerpts

Advisory

for Jim Kehoe

September’s lovely in New York, the sky
Returned to baby blue, the breeze now mild
As breath, and if you’ve anything at all
Important planned, now’s when to do it: fall
In love, begin a book, beget a child,
Marry, get religion, learn to fly.

September’s stunning, even on so odd
An island as Manhattan, of all places
Least like landscape: climate cannot bungle
This month without a more than urban jungle,
Without an icecap, or those desert spaces
Composed of dust and emptiness and God.

September’s drop-dead gorgeous or it’s plain
Disaster here, airborne catastrophe,
Some sub-tropical depression, say,
Originating half a world away
And gaining, as it moves across the sea,
The turbine fury of a hurricane.

Still, September’s dangerous days are few,
Whirlwinds tracked worldwide. You can assume
Responsible officials will foresee
Such turmoil; you can count on your TV
For early warning. There are those for whom
This hasn’t worked, but it should work for you.

I know a man who paused to say goodbye
With care to those he loved one morning, fold
Them in his arms, and just that slight delay
Spared him on a bright September day
When air turned ash, the center could not hold,
The quickly dead fell burning from the sky.

Based on a True Story

No, not equal to, not ever, for all
it couples in public vehicles and crawls
through sewers as through astonishing bars
of light, of music, but rather a bizarre
bazaar of retailed wisdom and aperçu
happily assembled out of what you
will, so that it variously contains
a woman, a bed, wind and rain,
heaven and hell, a mouse’s nest,
a winter’s midnight dressed
in radiant bolts of shimmer shots,
its construct ad hoc on its base yet not
the thing itself, being for better and worse
a derivation, a version and perverse.
Put much in and most is left
over, the sprawled magnitude of evasion deft.
Leave everything out and some trace
inheres in what sparse space
affords. Pare it down, puff
it up, it cannot be pruned or plumped enough
to be coterminous with its occasion, but must extend
elsewhere, more rational and pointed, to an end
and to our eyes
more moving. More shapely. More concise.