Janet Holmes’s second book of poems explores and interrogates the quotidian life of the late twentieth century for what exists behind its often seductive appearance. In these poems we see beneath acceptable, sleek surfaces into the turbulence they often conceal, as the splendid green tuxedo of the title may disguise a heart that harbors racism, fear, and violence. Holmes exhorts us to look beyond the face value of what presents itself, to resist literal interpretations, and to plumb the many depths afforded by each encounter with the world outside ourselves.
In the second half of The Green Tuxedo, Holmes draws on recently discovered diaries kept by her journalist father nearly fifty years before her birth. Sifting through evidence and memory, she entwines actual diary entries (such as a seventy-seven-name list of “Wild Women I Have Known”) with speculation and invention to generate a portrait that discovers him- re-invents him-as a young man. This sequence, searching and elegiac, affords closure to a book whose questionings suggest less a need for absolute answers than a declaration of the need to explore. Holmes leads us through a world of appearances, celebrating the necessary examination of what is concealed.
“Janet Holmes’ first book, The Physicist at the Mall, introduced us to a remarkable new voice: fiercely intelligent, buoyant with humor, alert to mysteries of language and landscape. The Green Tuxedo more than fulfills the earlier book’s promise, adding to it a formal inventiveness and mastery that amazes and delights. ‘The Time-Saver,’ for example, has a structure as intricate as a Bach fugue’s (with similar bass notes underlying it), a candor as radiant as a documentary film’s, and the accruing emotional power of the best novels. If any recent book could capture a new and reluctant audience for poetry, this is it.”-Tom Andrews
“Janet Holmes possesses an enviable virtuosity . . . her subtle shifts of mind and canny juxtapositions delight the reader with digressions and returns, with perceptiveness and grace.”-Susan Ludvigson
“The Green Tuxedo is a wonderful book. . . . Godspeed this book’s light into the darkness that surrounds us all.”-Thomas Lux