By Matthew Rohrer
Publication Date: April 1, 2011
ISBN# 9781933517506 (5.5x9 96pp, paper and cloth)
The governance of fear will be checked by love.
Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Matthew Rohrer illuminates the modern plight: how to be a thoughtful citizen, parent, and person as the landscape of terror and history worms its way into our everyday existence. Unnervingly humorous, casual, and tender, Rohrer’s poems help us investigate our lives as he investigates his—openly and with a generous presence.
This book is Rohrer at his best. The poems feel organic, full of destroyers, preservers, and ghosts: “a small cloud / that looks like an enormous flea / crouches over the city.” And I’m inclined to agree with our speaker-poet: “I think the future / belongs to the ghosts / sweeping the sidewalks / with their wedding dresses.” Though, poets, it might be time to change the ghosts in all those poems you’ve been writing into robots. This puppy just hit the shelves.
Joshua Diamond, Sycamore Review
Destroyer and Preserver does so well what all of Rohrer’s books have done: it is simultaneously funny and disturbing, imaginatively wild and politically audacious, transformative and rooted in the everyday, and, most importantly, willing to forfeit irony and artifice for wit and honesty. However, with Destroyer and Preserver, Rohrer’s abilities have, I want to say, matured ... Rohrer’s poetics have become more intimate, more defiantly human, not in the sense of post-confessional, or any other term, but in that these poems are fully and actively engaged with the world in all of its emotional chaos.
Nick Sturm, On the Seawall
There is Poetry that articulates & deepens our conception of what it means to be alive–a flawed human fumbling glimpsed however imperfectly through a busted lens. Matthew Rohrer’s Destroyer and Preserver struggles heroically with the need for concentration & revelation against a field of distraction & shattered perceptions. Rohrer has written with such tender affection–for people, for places, for the very ability to feel & think–that each poem feels weighted with equal parts nostalgia & hope.
Nate Pritts, Coldfront
VERDICT: Griffin Poetry prize finalist Rohrer is upcoming, and rightly so. Anyone committed to contemporary poetry should read.
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Rohrer’s frequently beautiful, brief poems are rooted in specific images that initially seem unrelated—but which ultimately form a unity as meditations on how the ordinary distractions of everyday life can be seen as the source for almost everything important in life.
Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
Rohrer is a poet who thrives on a kind of serious playfulness derived from the aforementioned New Yorkers, and his facility with humor pairs well with his candor toward the graver stuff... Rohrer’s new collection Destroyer and Preserver finds him struggling to synthesize his multiple selves: He’s a father, a husband, a poet, an American, and a man with “a heart/ it is too big for my clothes.”
Michael Brodeur, Boston Globe
In his brilliant and immediate eighth collection, Destroyer and Preserver, Matthew Rohrer meshes, welds and bolts together phrases and sentences with precision and daring. He also allows his gift, the triple-threat of cleverness, humor and wit, to lead him to deeper and more mature and complex subject matter.
Steve Langan, Sugar House Review
Destroyer and Preserver is more than witty and strange. These unpretentious lyrics are deft expressions of where the personal meets the political, where the mundane meets the profound—documenting a multivalent poet’s quotidian as his nation wars abroad.
Evan Hansen, The The Poetry
Whether with home-life, politics, riding the subway or buying a Fuji apple, Rohrer presents experience untainted and plainly genuine as well as transformed and infinitely more staggering. With Destroyer and Preserver, Rohrer defends his place as one of the best contemporary United States poets.
Daniel Moysaenko, Loyola Phoenix
Matthew Rohrer... presents a thoughtful spin on life and its many twists and turns as we try to make ourselves better people and face down everything that seems to take us another direction. Destroyer and Preserver is a thoughtful collection with plenty of wise and witty verse, recommended.
Midwest Book Review
When Rohrer’s unpunctuated, paratactic style works, it works brilliantly; when he falters, it is a faltering born of a new sincerity the world (of which readers are a part) renders suspect, as a form of (good-natured) vice. These poems—and the oeuvre of this poet—deserve careful readings, and re-readings, to train ourselves to perform John Cage’s ironic challenge: to see what it is we’re looking at, and to feel what it is (if anything) we feel.
Virginia Konchan, The Rumpus
In his collection of lectures and essays The Triggering Town, Richard Hugo apprises, “The opposition is far more dramatic if you don’t call attention to it.” Matthew Rohrer’s newest collection Destroyer and Preserver is proof of this counsel, a vital assemblage of poems intent on using opposition as practical deferment to his personal world.
Matthew Daddona, InDigest
Rohrer writes poems that crackle and sputter, often branching toward new meaning and emotion within the span of a single line, as in the book’s opening poem, where the universe/ is a long sentence/ according to our instruments/ the oldest songs are/ breaking apart.” If the poems sometimes elevate the mundane in a way that is difficult to trust (I haven’t/ put much thought into it. I just feel good”), they also demonstrate a closeness to their emotional and political urgency (“there is a look in your eyes/ I would blindly fly a plane into”) that is rare in contemporary poetry. “The Terrorists” powerfully traces the ways in which the compulsion toward violence implants itself in our psyches (“while she pushes/ her daughter on the swing/ the accusation of the fountains/ murmurs do it”) long after a violent event has occurred. For all this sharp observation, Rohrer sometimes leaves a poem on a note of sincere defeat, as in “Poem on the Occasion of the Midterm Election,” which ends “It’s we who are powerless.” Seldom are poets this honest about what we hope isn’t true, a fact that renders this collection hopeful in its refusal to tell it any other way.
There’s quirky charm to Rohrer’s voice. I’m struck by the unironic way he speaks of the “blue bloom of love” and the “cathedral” of the day, unafraid to rhapsodize within his abrupt, deadpan form.
Richard Silberg, Poetry Flash
“What has always attracted me to Rohrer’s poems is working better than I have ever seen it. His angular, juxtaposition-based approach to narrative and his commitment to the quotidian—the everyday-made-new—show his interest in New York School poetics. And as he did in his improvised collaborations with Joshua Beckman, Rohrer again demonstrates an enviable ease and deftness within this style.”
Michael Flatt, New Pages
With fragmented glimpses into a variety of people and experiences filtered through the lens of broken language and syntactical play, the work of this collection is accomplished with a refreshing air of artistry.
Amanda Perez, Front Porch Journal
Matthew Rohrer is the author of Destroyer and Preserver (Wave Books, 2011), A Plate of Chicken (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), Rise Up (Wave Books, 2007) and A Green Light (Verse Press, 2004), which was shortlisted for the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize. He is also the author of Satellite (Verse Press, 2001), and co-author, with Joshua Beckman, of Nice Hat. Thanks. (Verse Press, 2002), and the audio CD Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty. He has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and The Next Big Thing. His first book, A Hummock in the Malookas was selected for the National Poetry Series by Mary Oliver in 1994. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches at NYU.
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