In his second poetry collection, Infinite Altars, James Brasfield tracks restless interplays of light on a fallen feather outside an Italian chapel, the surface of the Gowanus Canal, and a forest footpath after an evening of rain. Atmospheric and reflective, these poems travel with equal ease through the world of fine arts and the places where we live, highlighting the vivid sights and sounds of each in turn.
At a sudden encounter with everyday beauty, serenity suffuses through the author: “Something of that calmness goes with us / back into the world.” Brasfield’s poems invite readers to embrace these unexpected and arresting experiences.
I was a shadow cast
by a bare bulb
burning without a light switch.
my scream for the hell of it yawned a silent O
at the shrieking machines,
each a city block long.
I tried to decipher
what seemed a secret kept by that fraternal noise
or by the hands of millwrights
never to shape the alphabet
of their knowing—the palindrome
of indelible hours—
digits given up to the woodchipper’s blades.
—from “The Incorporation”
JAMES BRASFIELD received fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the American Association for Ukrainian Studies Prize in Translation, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He is the author of Ledger of Crossroads.
Praise for Infinite Altars
“This book makes one realize anew the power of narration in poetry. In Jim Brasfield's gifted hands it brings to remarkable life the smallest moment, the oldest myth, the acuteness of time.”—Vivian Gornick, author of The Odd Woman and the City
“In these poems, Nature, always changing, always enigmatic, is like a human face. Brasfield's moving lines decipher the gestures of this captivating and intriguing face, which always has something subtle and deep and real to say about us. Words feel like silences. The air of these enveloping and serene poems enters your lungs and you breathe it for quite a while. Then, you open the book again, for another breath.”—Arturo Fontaine, author of La Vida Doble
“In Infinite Altars, the altars are surfaces of light comprising all that we see. Its poems, narrative and expressive in quality, are often startling in content and repeatedly treat questions of light, presence, space, and the act of finding—among the infinite manifestations of change—singular places where we engage with our passing days and our passage into the future.”—Project MUSE
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