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Dreamlife of a Philanthropist

Dreamlife of a Philanthropist

Janet Kaplan

Winner of the 2011 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry

With a salve in one hand and a butcher’s knife in the other, Janet Kaplan offers her masterful third collection,Dreamlife of a Philanthropist. The prose poems and sonnets in Dreamlife are packed with postmodern language-leaping, modern irony and absurdity, and a poet’s ageless ear for the pleasures of the lyric and formal experimentation. These are poems that can never quite abandon the hope that life—and language—are worthy pursuits; but they never offer up easy assurances about the benefits of humanity to anyone or anything. Get ready for dogs that wail and overtake the scene; an invitation to make love on a mattress of ants; and the philanthropist of the title, who dreams that people are turned into fish. It’s “good luck and bad in random but equal measure,” Kaplan writes in “Life and Times.”

But why feel overwhelmed by it all, according to the poet? Perhaps there’s never been enough—of anything, suggests the narrator of “Revolutions.” “Too little need, too few darkening rooms.” Bring on the grief, bring on the regrets, and sob with pity all night—then, come morning, “fetch me from work, bearing roses the color of coal.”

“Imagination reaches over to kiss reality on the neck in these poems. God and the universe have walk-on parts, as do symmetry, prescription drugs, children, mothers, fathers . . . all in the context of a vibrant animal world placed in the shifting sands of language, with the excitement of a threatened slide into chaos lurking beneath every lovely lyric turn.” — Maria Melendez, author of Flexible Bones and How Long She’ll Last in This World

" ‘The mind’s no place for a life,’ writes Janet Kaplan, nudging reason off the stool where it had sat so preciously balanced. Some poems seek to re-wire the mechanism of their own creation; and here, in poems whose wit cannot be told apart from their momentum, we find thinking at work against itself, undoing conclusion, battling intent, in order to recover some lost ground of form’s unconscious foundation. The ambition is high, though humble as you read it. Kaplan is capable of cosmogonic play and radical domesticity (as if one were different from the other). The poems here hover above their own titles, this dream-life of the poem more important than the poem itself, a place in which thinking is not yet thought, intent not yet conclusive, not language even as a form of life, but language in the process of making that life possible. It isn’t a mental life; it is too real for that easy confine. Let’s just call it the necessary life—a life of serious play." — Dan Beachy-Quick, author of This Nest, Swift Passerine

ISBN: 978-0-268-03322-4
72 pages
Publication Year: 2011

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Janet Kaplan is the author of two previous poetry collections, The Groundnote and The Glazier’s Country, and her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, online and in print. She is the recipient of the Poets Out Loud Prize from Fordham University Press, the Alice James Books New England and New York prize, and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Vogelstein Foundation, and Rattapallax Press (the Godot Grant in Poetry). She teaches at Hofstra University and Fordham University, where she is currently Poet in Residence.

“. . . This collection has sustained richness, an irrepressible energy, at a deeper level. The voice is so consistently free of the usual taint of writer-ego that one almost gets the feeling that the poems have written themselves. . . . Kaplan leads us into each strange corner with such sureness that we are willing to go, honored to be there, and satisfied after each one that we have been shown a glimpse of something rare.” — The Prose-Poem Project

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P03172

Wild Track

New and Selected Poems

Kevin Hart

P03166

Furious Dusk

David Campos

P03165

Times Beach

John Shoptaw

Dreamlife of a Philanthropist

Janet Kaplan

 Dreamlife of a Philanthropist
Paper Edition

Winner of the 2011 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry

With a salve in one hand and a butcher’s knife in the other, Janet Kaplan offers her masterful third collection,Dreamlife of a Philanthropist. The prose poems and sonnets in Dreamlife are packed with postmodern language-leaping, modern irony and absurdity, and a poet’s ageless ear for the pleasures of the lyric and formal experimentation. These are poems that can never quite abandon the hope that life—and language—are worthy pursuits; but they never offer up easy assurances about the benefits of humanity to anyone or anything. Get ready for dogs that wail and overtake the scene; an invitation to make love on a mattress of ants; and the philanthropist of the title, who dreams that people are turned into fish. It’s “good luck and bad in random but equal measure,” Kaplan writes in “Life and Times.”

But why feel overwhelmed by it all, according to the poet? Perhaps there’s never been enough—of anything, suggests the narrator of “Revolutions.” “Too little need, too few darkening rooms.” Bring on the grief, bring on the regrets, and sob with pity all night—then, come morning, “fetch me from work, bearing roses the color of coal.”

“Imagination reaches over to kiss reality on the neck in these poems. God and the universe have walk-on parts, as do symmetry, prescription drugs, children, mothers, fathers . . . all in the context of a vibrant animal world placed in the shifting sands of language, with the excitement of a threatened slide into chaos lurking beneath every lovely lyric turn.” — Maria Melendez, author of Flexible Bones and How Long She’ll Last in This World

" ‘The mind’s no place for a life,’ writes Janet Kaplan, nudging reason off the stool where it had sat so preciously balanced. Some poems seek to re-wire the mechanism of their own creation; and here, in poems whose wit cannot be told apart from their momentum, we find thinking at work against itself, undoing conclusion, battling intent, in order to recover some lost ground of form’s unconscious foundation. The ambition is high, though humble as you read it. Kaplan is capable of cosmogonic play and radical domesticity (as if one were different from the other). The poems here hover above their own titles, this dream-life of the poem more important than the poem itself, a place in which thinking is not yet thought, intent not yet conclusive, not language even as a form of life, but language in the process of making that life possible. It isn’t a mental life; it is too real for that easy confine. Let’s just call it the necessary life—a life of serious play." — Dan Beachy-Quick, author of This Nest, Swift Passerine

ISBN: 978-0-268-03322-4

72 pages

“. . . This collection has sustained richness, an irrepressible energy, at a deeper level. The voice is so consistently free of the usual taint of writer-ego that one almost gets the feeling that the poems have written themselves. . . . Kaplan leads us into each strange corner with such sureness that we are willing to go, honored to be there, and satisfied after each one that we have been shown a glimpse of something rare.” — The Prose-Poem Project

Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry