This award-winning book-length poem is a medley of voices in dialogue with each other—overheard, remembered, and internal—that represents a mind at work as it considers the destructiveness of human nature, the hypocrisy and artifice of the American dream. Voices from personal conversations, political speeches, Guantanamo detainees, news reports, and famous poets fill these pages, ultimately capturing a world of disrupted beauty and unrealized potential.
And so we went there to the Warm Land.
We passed by the projects and the Quickie Marts
and we wound through the looping miles of suburbs
where every house and hairdo looked the same,
and I saw how the people of that land were
and I thought they were not able to do much for themselves—
they were forced to leave their homes all day
and their children played behind metal fences.
And I saw how the trees were
and how the ground was covered with black tar.
And I saw the looks on the faces of these people.
We passed down into the hollows of a train station,
into a cave where the trains jarred the floor
and I saw how these people were,
how close they were pressed together,
how afraid they were to smile at each other,
for the killers walked among them
and those who would sell the tally machines
to count up the souls in the camps
and those who waited for the others to get sick
so they could come for their houses walked among them
and those whom anger had touched too deeply,
who had crouched deep into the foxholes of themselves
or crawled deep into the wooden horse of sadness
and those who would watch you gang-raped from the window
and those who saw the demon everywhere
longing only for one chance at its throat—
“Christian Barter’s brilliant song of ourselves is Walt Whitman filtered through The Waste Land. Bold and broken-hearted and up-to-the-minute, it is a visionary elegy for America in dozens of dead-on voices you hear every day on the train, in the halls, across the breakfast table. Bye-Bye Land virtually reads itself to you; all you have to do is listen.”—James Richardson
“What a good poet Christian Barter is, whose poems make you believe—a difficult artistic feat—that poetry is an utterly natural act. Reading them is like being handed a set of x-rays in the doctor’s office; you look at them, dumbfounded at how familiar these blurry shapes are—‘Oh yes,’ you think, ‘that is my youth, that is my brain, those are my dreams, that is my heart—’”—Tony Hoagland
“There are poets who can bring us to tears; there are poets who can make us ponder vast societal and existential issues; there are poets whose irony moves us at once to ruefulness and to dark laughter; there are poets who fruitfully challenge our intellectual capacities. But Christian Barter is that rarest of writers, the one who can make us react in all these ways, and often simultaneously.” —Sydney Lea
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2017