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Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer


Southern Messenger Poets

72 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807126943 / March 2001

“Tell me a story / of speed and tell it to me fast for the light is / gaining and I will wake and with this body / break the barrier between what I dream / and what my dreaming means.”

Sometimes a fact swings down like a hammer and we are changed. The fact of loss, the fact of desire, and all the wild, unruly facts of history hammer down and sparks fly up. This, then, is a collection of facts. In a rushing, rolling style, poems sweep to the edge of falling apart, take great delight in defying that dissolution, and come upon a thing redemptive and clarifying: the fact of love. In a world that “doesn’t really care / whether we live or die,” Steve Scafidi writes, “tell it you do and why.”

Against the harrowing fact of death, Scafidi celebrates dream and desire and the sweet erotics of springtime. Witnessing the budding of muscle trees, the nakedness of a lover, and the furious plowing of a river in the month of April amounts to a sensual equivalent of hope. And yet, the facts of history — from Troy to Rome to Montgomery, Alabama — arouse a great dread of our own cruelties. The truth of the South, the poems show, is often a brutal mix of ignorance and force that America learned from the great classical civilizations. From the unthinkable to the quietly heroic, somehow we have emerged. Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer celebrates that fact most of all. 

Steve Scafidi, author of Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, For Love of Common Words, and To the Bramble and the Briar, works as a cabinetmaker and lives in Summit Point, West Virginia.

Praise for Steve Scafidi

“Scafidi deftly confronts both death and disaster in a manner that is as hilarious as it is serious. . . . In Scafidi’s universe, it’s all right to be a little off-center, because it is in the common, in the everyday that he finds dignity and communion.”—Karla Huston, Library Journal

“This poet engages life on multiple levels—not complacent in the presence of suffering and not ignoring injustice, but open to the possibilities of grace, of beauty, of atonement.”—Philip Belcher, Southern Quarterly

“When I tell you [Scafidi] is a poet of impressive reach and Elizabethan exuberance, you may take me at my word. Imaginatively adroit, formally outfitted without necessarily being formally complex, his work inhabits a large cognitive and imagistic space where ostensible subjects—snakes and weasels, a burning truck, the spruce front of a violin—grow into emanations or strands of implication.”
—David Rigsbee, Cortland Review

“Scafidi’s poetry . . . musically and vividly reminds readers that creation is full of delights both large and small. It reminds us that life is short, that death is inevitable, and that the only mature responses to these hard facts are to be aware of beauty, meaning, pleasure, to take nothing for granted, to care deeply, and celebrate while we can. These are realizations that can quietly transform a life.”
—Jeff Mann, Appalachian Journal

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