Presenter of the National Book Awards

2010 National Book Award Finalist,
Poetry

James Richardson

By the Numbers

Copper Canyon Press

Photo credit: Pryde Brown

ABOUT THE BOOK

For James Richardson, poetry is serious and speculative play for both intellect and imagination. By the Numbers is striking for its range of line and movement, for is microlyrics, crypto-quatrains, “ten-second essays,” and the twist and snap of aphorisms. Drawing from myriad fables—Ovidian, Shakespearean, georgic, and scientific—Richardson makes familiar scenes strange enough to provoke new and startling insights.

James Richardson’s books include Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays; and As If, which was selected by Amy Clampitt for the National Poetry Series. The recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Robert H. Winner, Cecil Hemley, and Emily Dickinson Awards from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, he is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at Princeton University.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Richardson’s books include Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays; and As If, which was selected by Amy Clampitt for the National Poetry Series. The recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Robert H. Winner, Cecil Hemley, and Emily Dickinson Awards from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, he is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at Princeton University.

SUGGESTED LINKS

James Richardson's Webpage at Princeton University
www.princeton.edu/arts

Richardson's Copper Canyon Press Webpage
www.coppercanyonpress.org


EXCERPT

In Shakespeare
by James Richardson

In Shakespeare a lover turns into an ass
as you would expect. Others confuse
their consciences with ghosts and witches.
Old men throw everything away
when they panic and can’t feel their lives.
They pinch themselves, pierce themselves with twigs,
cliffs, lightning, to die—yes, finally—in glad pain.

You marry a woman you've never talked to,
a woman you thought was a boy.
Sixteen years go by as a curtain billows
once, twice. Your children are lost,
they come back, you don't remember how.
A love turns to a statue in a dress, the statue
comes back to life. O god, it's all so realistic
I can't stand it. Whereat I weep and sing.

Such a relief to burst from the theater
into our cool, imaginary streets
where we know who's who and what's what,
and command with Metrocards our destinations.
Where no one with a story struggling in him
convulses as it eats its way out,
and no one in an antiseptic corridor
or in deserts or in downtown darkling plains
staggers through an Act that just will not end,
eyes burning with the burning of the dead.