For more than 20 years, Sean Thomas Dougherty has negotiated between modernist and avant-garde writing and more populist traditions that extend back to Walt Whitman. His subject matter ranges from basketball to Björk, from blue collar workers to Biggie Smalls, from Luciano Pavarotti to women waiting at a diner outside a prison in Upstate New York. Selecting from the best of eight previous collections, this New and Selected reveals the powerful arc and development of Dougherty’s writing and establishes him as a voice of dissent for the future.
doing tricks on the steps of city hall, and names written with a stick in wet cement, we stood like children holding bouquets at the Olympic trials before we leapt, we didn’t hesitate to burst, we made ramps on undeveloped land, drank fifths till we dropped at abandoned construction sites, a few we burned, dropped the match and dashed, petty larceny of news, we took the chance to steal anything mid-sentence, slow perhaps we talked but we walked like Black Flag through the bar as we grew we knew we were made of light and smoke and blood oranges blossoming in our hands, you wrinkled your nose at the taste of postage stamps, you kissed like punching a piano or trying to write an autobiography during a fire alarm. One day, you said, we’ll be like an old hotel full of ex-gangsters, each room of us full of retired assassins and lounge singers. Raise your hand if you cling to the fruit-stand vendor, if you weep when he hands you the bag of bruised grown things, (as growing we are all bruised) to teach the air to ask for what it lacks or forfeit the answer to anything can be a crust of bread for our neighbor with his glass eye in the nurshing home as this is the hour please pray for who suffers cartilage splinter on the lost playgrounds the death of nostalgia reveals do no swallow stones or shovels you are the grapevine grasping one of us one day must master the art of eating alone.
“[Dougherty] wears his heart on both sleeves—he is not for everyone: but readers in search of socially conscious vigor, of street energy and “something to hold onto,” may find that Dougherty is just what they need.” —Publishers Weekly
“Dougerty has been a staple of the underground poetry scene for nearly 30 years. He’s come up the hard way—no overnight successes, no long-term university positions—and his poetry is as honest and ALIVE as any you’ll read. When people talk about the poetry scene going soft or the scourge of 'workshopped poems' or, God forbid, the death of poetry—it’s because they haven’t read Dougherty’s work. This New and Selected volume covers his full career-to-date and should wake us all up to the underground sound that’s throbbing like a bass drum in the heart of contemporary poetry. Poetry ain’t dead. It’s working in a pool hall in Erie, Pennsylvania.” —BUSTLE
“Sean Thomas Dougherty’s poems vibrate with ‘red and blue braids of light,' in a voice that resonates and transports. Arresting, precise imagery from a poet of grand and memorable vision, this is the gypsy punk heart of American poetry.” —Dorianne Laux
“These soul-infused, deftly crafted stanzas pulse with the rhythms of a poet who lives his life out loud. Sean Thomas Dougherty has always shunned convention in favor of his fresher landscapes—and this book will be the one that stamps his defiant signature on the canon.” —Patricia Smith
“Dougherty is the Miles Davis of the sentence.” —Peter Markus
“The poems of Sean Thomas Dougherty are full of intelligence and energy, myth and music, moving in surreal, jagged streams. There is a remarkable range of references here, from Edith Piaf to Biggie Smalls, from Jackson Pollock to Killer Kowalski. Above all, however, there is empathy, that essential element of poetry and humanity, for a dying grandfather, for the insomniacs of the city, for all the forgotten histories the poet cannot forget. To him I say: Keep singing.” —Martín Espada