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With rare integrity of shape and vision, Richard L. Rose offers a journey through the grief and mental static of the current time to a sense of an historical opportunity for "widening the circle of compassion," as Einstein once said. With strong verse whose line breaks, electric diction, and magnetic imagery push the reader from line to line and poem to poem, PushBack takes you from humorous situations like "A Tramp Packs Up Along Pennsylvania Avenue," to speculative fiction like "Bittner Gets a Lift," to the poignant social criticism on immigration policy in "We're full." In the culminating title poem, "PushBack," a continuously inventive narrative, the sustained energy of resistance, criticism, and compassion intensifies, going from scenes of battle, where:
None of the stunned in the dumb stumble
of the not yet dead
staggering in fields of battle
from Bohemia to Yemen,
flies on lips and eyes,
believes that, equitably given,
such wealth of horror is a prize.
to a new place, where,
Soon dark as an unintentional
choice, the pond resolved to space,
as I recall it now,
a spacious interval of placid surface
misted with stars. A loon sang out.
Things need not be this way—
such chopping choices, fear, and fret;
a mind that's hard and set.
Things need not be this way.
PushBack is a rich journey well worth taking.
A Note From the Publisher
Richard Rose’s poetry delights with ravishing imagery, skillful metaphors, unexpected juxtapositions, and twists of language. Yet, through the tercets, quatrains, free verse, and various rhyme schemes emerges smoldering resistance to injustices of society, politics, and humankind. The messages are sharpened by the language that brings them.
—Betty Mar Little, Supervisor of Language Arts for Loudoun County Public Schools, 1984-2003
These are lofty, earnest poems written with care. The author says, “I choose to write and write to choose.” Just as we, as readers, must choose to read and read deeper than ever before.
—Guy Terrell, co-author of A Short History of Richmond
Thoreau went to the woods, he said, to live deliberately—to learn what the woods had to teach him so that when he came to die, he would not discover that he had never learned. PushBack is Richard Rose’s trip to the dark woods of our time. He has dwelt in those woods to stare at the ghosts of squandered opportunity that make shadows among the trees. In learning, he invites readers to consider the darkness and the shadows and the faint strands of light that are meaning and hope and “the deep integrity of how things are.” “Open your heart now,” he urges, “push back against the dark.” I sit in the woods with him and learn his learning, again and again, more and more deeply, until I am able to push back.
—Carol Ann Tomlinson, William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia, and author of The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners
Don’t be fooled by the ordinary titles in the table of contents of his new collection, PushBack. Few poets can hear the downbeats in a sentence and turn them into a whole new world of meaning and understanding. In popular culture I’m thinking of Seinfeld who made a whole career out of the ordinary and mundane. And in the literary world former poet laureate Billy Collins, who can turn a glass of orange juice into an orchard in the middle of your kitchen. Richard Rose can turn a box of sand into diamond dust!
—Nathan M. Richardson; Poet, Author, Frederick Douglass Historian
In reading Richard Rose’s PushBack, one can fully participate both in the universal, shared human experience as well as connect to Richard’s very personal experiences and understandings. Through nature, personal relationships, and man's propensity towards war, Richard takes us on a journey through pockets of his existence and our own. Using painted word-images, wit, and humor, he seeks to illuminate both the incomprehensible atrocities of history and man, as well as the power of art to transform our minds and beings with hope into something different — something better — and, perhaps, to reach the deepest longing in every human soul for both peace and understanding. "Who’s there? (Four Confessions)" has an element of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”, and in reading it one feels the poem is speaking directly to us. "Collected Words for a Memorial Service" contains such profound beauty in connecting the universal, human experience with the deep existential longing of our souls. Richard is a master at the intertwining of the vivid sounds and echoes of nature amidst the brutality of death, war, destruction, and revenge — the never-ending vicious cycle. He poignantly emphasizes the overly-calculated, analytical rationale man uses to defend horrific acts in such a cold and clearly self-justifying manner. The power of the thinking mind to abandon its own soul is aptly stated in the last few phrases on p. 77 (Processionals for Voice):
When the wind is done,
your wear becomes you. Your care is gone.
Your wear becomes you. Your core is gone.
May we gain from reading PushBack a constant desire to not lose our cores and to continue to push back where human suffering is concerned.
—Karine Marshall, President, Capitol Opera Richmond
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