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The Eternal City


Chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon to relaunch the prestigious Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets under his editorship, The Eternal City revives Princeton's tradition of publishing some of today’s best poetry. With an epigraph from Freud comparing the mind to a landscape in which all that ever was still persists, The Eternal City offers eloquent testimony to the struggle to make sense of the present through conversation with the past. Questioning what it means to possess and to be possessed by objects and technologies, Kathleen Graber’s collection brings together the elevated and the quotidian to make neighbors of Marcus Aurelius, Klaus Kinski, Walter Benjamin, and Johnny Depp. Like Aeneas, who escapes Troy carrying his father on his back, the speaker of these intellectually and emotionally ambitious poems juggles the weight of private and public history as she is transformed from settled resident to pilgrim.______ From The Eternal City:WHAT I MEANT TO SAY Kathleen Graber ? In three weeks I will be gone. Already my suitcase standsoverloaded at the door. I’ve packed, unpacked, & repacked it,making it tell me again & again what it couldn’t hold.Some days it’s easy to see the signifi cant insignificanceof everything, but today I wept all morning over the swollen,optimistic heart of my mother’s favorite newscaster,which suddenly blew itself to stillness. I have tried for weeksto predict the weather on the other side of the world: I don’t wantto be wet or overheated. I’ve taken out The Complete Shakespeare to make room for a slicker. And I’ve changed my mind& put it back. Soon no one will know what I mean when I speak.Last month, after graduation, a student stopped me just outsidethe University gates despite a downpour. He wanted to tell methat he loved best James Schuyler’s poem for Auden. So much to remember, he recited in the rain, as the shopsbegan to close their doors around us. I thought he would livea long time. He did not. Then, a car loaded with his friendspulled up honking & he hopped in. There was no chance to linger& talk. Today I slipped into the bag between two shoes that bookwhich begins with a father digging--even though my fatherwas no farmer & planted ever only one myrtle late in his life& sat in the yard all that summer watching it grow as he died,a green tank of oxygen suspirating behind him. If the suitcasewere any larger, no one could lift it. I’m going away for a long time,but it may not be forever. There are tragedies I haven’t read.Kyle, bundle up. You’re right. It’s hard to say simply what is true. For Kyle Booten ?

Author Information

Kathleen Graber teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker and the American Poetry Review, among other publications, and her first collection, Correspondence, was published in 2006.


Secretary of unwhispered announcements, Kathleen Graber traces the outlines of meaning with a sure, deliberate hand. Her engaging ruminations merge forms: diary, letter, and essay. In this second collection, she extends her reputation as a poet of 'beauty and deeply felt intelligence.' Graber holds the hammer of time at both ends, beating out ideas into images and conversely, images into ideas. History and memory course through the pages, reintegrated into the present by insightful observations. . . . 'Loneliness, the one defendable empire,' never looked better.---Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Brooklyn RailGraber's book--this is her second--is one of the few to come out in 2010 that has joined the little clutch I have of poetry books I read and reread. It's an unusually wise and sturdy book for a poet whose career is so young. . . . Graber isn't a formal innovator, nor is her subject matter--family, love, friendship, death, and the great books of classical literature--new to poetry, but she is nonetheless an absolute original. . . . Which is not to say she is by any means a grandiose poet. She's more of a very smart friend. Her problems are common--how to get along with others, how to make everyday love last and/or hurt less, how to have fun in the midst of a typically difficult life--and her poems offer, if not solutions (for there really are no solutions, are there?), company, and really good reading.---Craig Morgan Teicher, National Book Critics Circle board member, Graber is one of the most interesting, slippery and philosophical new poets to come along in a while. . . . [W]hat makes Graber's poems so fresh and wild are the associative slips that happen between the distant past and the urgent present.Finalist for the 2011 William Carlos Williams Award, Poetry Society of AmericaGraber, who draws on philosophy and theology, knows how to juxtapose large ideas with small moments. . . . Her careful balancing and sensitive descriptions often feel as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot summer day. That's especially true with the heart of this collection, 12 interlocking poems that begin with quotations from Marcus Aurelius. . . . This series demonstrates why ancient ideas are relevant today, and why Graber deserves to be in the company of such accomplished poets.---Elizabeth Lund, Washington PostIn Graber's poems, past, present, and future states of mind are coexistent with real and imagined worlds. This adds complex layering to her elegant and well-crafted long lines. . . . Shape-shifting and particularity-making, Graber's themes encompass a vast array of subjects, from religious iconography to graffiti to placards of state bureaucracy, yet in her skillful hands, the images cohere and we travel with her, those 285 steps of the Siegessaule. . . . A brilliant new voice is calling out from these exquisitely drawn verses.---Losana Boyd, First Things[T]hrough sheer persistence I'll find a book in which almost every poem makes me fall down, so dizzied am I by the world spinning and resolving itself in new ways. Such is the experience I had with Kathleen Graber's The Eternal City. . . . [T]he book is barely able to contain these thought-full poems that spool outward into the world around the poet, both the world of the world and the world of the mind, and curl back on themselves.---Marilyn McCabe, ConnotationPress.com[N]othing short of a revelation. Graber is a new poet that we should have always had but didn't until just now. Graber is the kind of poet who thinks out loud, though not in the tricky, needley way of John Ashbery, but like someone very smart and very well-read trying to get to the bottom of every troubling and exciting thought. She thinks about her day to day life, family and friends, their every day goings on, their deaths and big tragedies, and she thinks about big ideas--life, death, meaning--mostly in the same poem. She name-checks some of the big figures of Western thought--Marcus Aurelius and Walter Benjamin, for instance--but does so as if she were talking to or about friends. She manages to do a scholar's work in these poems without the alienating haughtiness of many scholars. And despite their learned-ness, these are poems anyone could love. . . . If you only read one book of poetry this year, that's not enough, but start with this one.---Craig Teicher, Publishers WeeklyWinner of the 2011 Literary Award for Poetry, Library of Virginia[O]utstanding collection. . . . These poems are like cherishable letters from a friend abroad. . . . Graber reminds one that poetry can be the most liberating form. . . . Kathleen Graber is mistress of these graceful inquisitions--and agile cadences. Her wings are unclipped. She convinces as a poet who has the freedom of the city--of the eternal city.---Kate Kellaway, The ObserverGraber's poems like to pose as effortless journal entries, but these are highly structured, artfully rendered missives that unfold inward.---Dean Rader, San Francisco ChronicleWinner of the 2012 Book Merit Award in the General Trade, Poetry Series, New York Book ShowKathleen Graber's aptly titled second collection of poetry, The Eternal City, questions the reality and logic of what it means to communicate with the past, present, and future. From the first poem until the last she is in conversation with 'the eternal,' but more specifically with human interaction and thinking that jumps back and forth on an infinite timeline. This trope is one of the most successful, and intriguing, threads throughout her book. . . . The underlying success here is that Graber takes unrelated texts and persons and intricately weaves them together with forceful language and aesthetic resonance.---Lana Rakhman, TriQuarterlyKathleen Graber, Winner of a 2017 Arts and Letters Award in Literature, American Academy of Arts and LettersA really unusual, engaging second book. Graber writes philosophical, meditative poems in a diction that's strangely natural and conversational; one poem is occasioned by leaving her keys in the apartment complex laundry room and locking herself out, another by rereading Walter Benjamin. The effect is of eavesdropping on the neurotic yet rigorous mind of an admired friend--the kind of unpretentious person who genuinely turns to books for solace. Her long-lined work grapples with loss, illness, and transience, allowing itself to be highly personal while never losing sight of the larger context of loss: the human condition. It's serious poetry as inviting as an intimate conversation. See for yourself.---Meghan O'Rourke, NPRKathleen Graber is an incredibly serious, intelligent and technically-gifted poet.---John Deming, Coldfront MagazineFinalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle in PoetryFinalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Nonfiction
Edition: Course Book
Audience: General/trade;