WINNER OF THE UNT RILKE PRIZE
How does it feel to experience another city? To stand beneath tall buildings, among the countless faces of a crowd? To attempt to be heard above the din?
The poems of Another City travel inward and outward at once: into moments of self-reproach and grace, and to those of disassociation and belonging. From experiences defined by an urban landscape—a thwarted customer at the door of a shuttered bookstore in Crete, a chance encounter with a might-have-been lover in Copenhagen—to the streets themselves, where “an alley was a comma in the agony’s grammar,” in David Keplinger’s hands startling images collide and mingle like bodies on a busy thoroughfare.
Yet Another City deftly spans not only the physical space of global cities, but more intangible and intimate distances: between birth and death, father and son, past and present, metaphor and reality. In these poems, our entry into the world is when “the wound, called loneliness, / opens,” and our voyage out of it is through a foreign but not entirely unfamiliar constellations of cities: Cherbourg, Manila, Port-au-Prince.
This is a rich portrait of the seemingly incommunicable expanses between people, places, and ideas—and the ability of a poem to transcend the void.
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Praise and Prizes
“Keplinger’s voices accumulate to a rich texture, inflected by literature and travel. I’ve rarely stood back in such awe at a collection’s ordering principles, its bone structure. These cities open their mouths and sing.”
“In this book loss is not just something gone, but something that can be found somewhere else, say in a poem, this time made more beautiful. . . . Here the poet teaches us—with fine-grained tactics, atmospheric language and sustained energy—that insight comes with craft.”
“The exquisite poems in David Keplinger’s Another City possess the weight and certitude of stone, yet break within one as geodes: their depths prismatic yet dreamlike, enigmatic yet also deeply familiar. From familial histories to Lincoln’s imperfect embalming, Marie Curie’s radioactive notebook to an examination of the ache of quotidian objects, there is a wholly radiant center to this collection, a dazzling multiplicity of cities and citizens, losses and revelations. The domes of these pages—both funerary and celestial—are those in which the great poets sing.”
“I cherish and am grateful for these poems, for the way the sweep of them disturbs me out of my complacency, and although I’m not certain as to who it is who tells me these poems, who sometimes even sings these poems out loud so I can hear them rise above the noisy hubbub of our lives, I know that he is capable of a powerful wrenching of the past into the painfully clear light of knowing, and I know that he, this speaker, presents—or illustrates, really—a frighteningly familiar record of someone confronting the essence of who he is in the world in the middle of his life without any reaching for self-praise or even salvation.”
“Within the places (somatic, textual, geographical) that house us and those that we house within us, Keplinger—frank, compressed, darkly witty, and never far from a sense of mythic wonder—makes clear that the purpose of a pilgrimage is to locate in any ‘city’ the profoundly humane citizenry of the isolato. ‘[D]eath is not the subject of our portrait. / It is,’ he writes in ‘The City of Birth,’ ‘the knowing you are seen, / it is the lighting of one’s light, it is to take / a body, knowing you are not the body. / That’s loneliness.’ In what he calls, in another poem, ‘our days of faithless translation,’ we are beyond lucky to have Keplinger interpreting our steps with ardent, articulate compassion.”
“Like Joseph Cornell’s elegant and bewitching boxes, David Keplinger’s poems are miniatures which reveal a universe. Although they begin in the quotidian, they are apt to end in revelation, made all the more resonant thanks to Keplinger’s exacting metaphors and unerring command of free verse craft. Yet he also reminds us, again and again, that revelation is by no means easy to come by. As he writes in one of the poems, ‘Now for the rest of your life / you are trying to be born / through a wound,’ a passage of Rilkean intensity which suggests that for Keplinger the stakes are very high indeed.”