[08/02/2022] As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them: New and Selected Poems, 1981-2020 by Stephen Corey
White Pine Press, paperback
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher Marketing: A career-spanning volume drawn from forty years of work and a selection of new poems.
Stephen Corey’s work is intelligent, moving and engaging. Poem after poem is beautiful, effortless, and thought-provoking. The range of style and subject matter, the depth of thought and emotion, the elegance and resonance and simplicity of language, the affectionate voice and tone—all work to make this a truly important and memorable book.
“Here is a life, and a life, and / a life,” Stephen Corey writes in the opening poem’s instructions to on how find the faded leaf—also a metaphor for the end of life—that one must imagine still colored after he is “gone.” The poem is echoed near the end of this stunningly rich and encompassing book in a poem addressed to his four daughters about what he has missed during his life. In between we encounter a world we thought we knew but have not seen in this way before: things as varied as Monarch butterflies, telephones, calligraphy, and bread, as well as other writers and texts that become lenses to show us “How we are growing undoes what we are” and see.
Like the glassblower’s art in one of these major poems, “Breath makes another world.” And like his Michelangelo in a sequence that masterfully covers centuries, we see “the way a life we love can be steered, / beyond our control, beyond us.” And so, thanks to this important and needed book we too can live beyond ourselves; that, indeed, is the highest praise for any art.”
—Richard Jackson, author of Broken Horizons and Where the Wind Comes From
“Stephen Corey’s, As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them, is sometimes bookish, in the best ways, and in addition to welcoming many of the stars in our pantheon (Shakespeare, O’Keeffe, Keats, Ginsberg, Woolf, and Whitman for example) there’s also the dual elegy for the poet’s father and Dickinson (the latter also has her own baseball poem), Emerson ‘at the moment of his first masturbation,” and a sequence in which Li Po and Tu Fu hop on a jet and tour America. What this means is that when Corey forays into “the real world” —keeping a hospital death watch, exploring and exalting carnal love, or delighting in his young daughter “playing Beethoven on my chest” — the poems are informed by both of his masters… by the “shelves of books” that are “the bones of my brain.””