Scott Coffel

of Iowa City, Iowa

Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2010

Tonight Wallace Stevens


Tonight Wallace Stevens seemed deep to me as Crater Lake
and bluer, if possible: who on this planet without a God
defeats death so easily, cuts it down to size,
devours it like an omnivore of oblivion?

Are not the propagations of death bars to pleasure?
If you could wake up tomorrow uncrushed by grief,
wouldn't you feel less foolish? Tonight Wallace Stevens
seemed deep to me as Crater Lake and bluer

than I could stand—for I am drained of blueness,
a boy's face buried in gray fur as winds from the northwest
scour the pneumatic Chryslers of 1959 with sand and snow
and my parents kiss in the street as they did in life—

yet I concur with Stevens that such embodiments of death
impoverish the imagination, that the only paradise
suitable for breathing forfeits its pales and deeps of blue
when ghosts take it upon themselves to burst into passion.

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Edward Hirsch on Scott Coffel

Scott Coffel takes up the subject of how to live, what to do, in his wide-ranging, deeply learned and wonderfully imaginative first book, Toucans in the Arctic. In deceptively offhand and beautifully structured poems, many of them sonnets, he repeatedly calls on the
great romantic poets ("From the Visions of William Blake," "Tonight Wallace Stevens") and moral philosophers, especially Jewish philosophers ("Maimonides, I Beseech You," "My Last Game of I and Thou," "My Glass of Spinoza") for guidance and sustenance. He is a wry and tender citizen of the imagination, an elegist who keeps coming up against the harsh realities of time, who finds the numinous in daily life.

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