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‘Riff on six’ retrospective of Miami poet’s work

Salt Publishing, an independent publishing house based in Cambridge, England, has published, Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems by English professor and Miami Press editor James Reiss.

Riff on Six contains poems from Reiss’ first four books, plus new work from his fifth volume, Slap Me Five, and his sixth volume, a collection of rhyming satirical Iraq War verse, A Child’s Garden of Evil.

An early review by Helen Vendler in “The New York Times Book Review” stated: “In Reiss, poems are laid in drawers, folded in books; memories are like pictures cut out of magazines, inertia and insomnia are the two forms of life. Pursued by the same phantoms, which reappear on the telephone, in sequential rooms, in snapshots, in slides, Reiss writes…with a momentum carrying whole poems along on the humming acceleration of a single sentence.”

Reiss’ most recent book, Ten Thousand Good Mornings (2001) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His previous books are The Breathers (1974), Express (1983) and The Parable of Fire (1996).

His work also has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review, plus many anthologies, textbooks and Web sites. Reiss has won grants from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council, as well as awards from the Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Society of America, and The Pushcart Foundation.

He has been a member of the Miami faculty since 1965.

A Day in Ohio

The painters began work on the house,
wielding their brushes like wings.
By noon they took off their caps
and blotted their brows with tan rags,
then lit cigarettes by striking wooden
matches on their boots in long slow arcs.

The roof took on the color of the sun
as it broke yolk-like on the weather vane.
They did not see it splatter.
Bronze in their five-o’clock shadows,
they slapped one last gold stroke
and lowered their scaffold and stretched.

Date Published: 10/30/2003
Volume: 23   Number: 13


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