The Strange Hours Travelers Keep Poems

August Kleinzahler

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

112 Pages



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Winner of the 2004 Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal in Poetry
Co-winner of the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize

In The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, Kleinzahler's poems stretch and go where this iconoclastic American poet has never gone before: they have his signature high color and rhythmic jump, but they take on a new breadth of voice and achieve registers that his earlier work only hinted at. Ranging from Las Vegas and Mayfair to the Asian steppes and contemporary Berlin, these poems touch down at will in tableaux where Liberace unceremoniously meets with St. Kevin and Gustav Mahler with Ava Gardner. Surprise after surprise, nothing seems to lie outside Kleinzahler's purview.

This is the strongest collection to date from a poet with "the vision and confident skill to make American poetry new" (Clive Wilmer, The Times [London]).


Praise for The Strange Hours Travelers Keep

"Kleinzahler stands as one of our most singular poet-transmitters. His poems are little machines of inspired attention . . . His scope is large, his diction wildly exact, his line inventive, his means varied, and he never condescends . . . He makes a complex cognitive music, his poems often sprung from a conceit deftly played out."—Maureen N. McLane, The New York Times Book Review

"Simplicity of line, but not simplicity of thought . . . [This poet's] strength [is] never letting you know exactly what the 'right' thought is and refusing to take sides. If you are politically correct, don't count on Kleinzahler telling you which side to take."—Helen Ruggieri, Talisman

"Kleinzahler mixes the pungent and the delicate, the literary and the colloquial, to create a fine, Technicolor-like excellence . . . His poems so often [present] a fusion of agony and wonderment."—John Palattella, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"From Las Vegas to Austin, Rome to Chicago, and onward to Antwerp and Cologne, just flipping through this book is bound to give a reader jet lag. Obviously, Kleinzahler took close notes on his sojourns out of town, for these poems not only describe the sensation of getting there, but they also depict their locales in exquisitely fresh phrasing."—John Freeman, The San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] frenetic and wily collection. Kleinzahler is a poet of motion and moil fascinated by all that humans invent to keep themselves busy and dizzy and safe from sorrow's dark draw. Kleinzahler is dazzling as he conjures the zip of cyberspace, the churn of garbage scows, the roar of jets, and all the contraband, produce, and products routinely hauled north from Mexico, as well as the stinging nettles of gossip, petty rivalries, and peccadilloes. He is funny, waspish, and fanciful, coyly forthright about his preference for scintillating civilization over dull nature, and wildly enamored of music, a passion that inspires spiked reflections on the reception of black jazz musicians in postwar Paris. Echoes of Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, and James Merrill can be heard in Kleinzahler's alert and worldly, clever and catty poems, little cyclones spinning feverishly over the precipice."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"This 11th collection from Kleinzahler characteristically keeps readers off balance through an unstable mix of deadpan irony, ambiguous intent, and eclectic subject matter. Just as the poem 'A Beautiful Mind' aspires to be horrifically offhand as it toys with the complex neural wiring of the human brain ('Mercy, Miss Percy, it's worse than the back of your TV'), a series of meditations on 'The History of Western Music' reveals a scholar's comfort with arcane detail . . . At his best, as in the hard-edged yet strangely moving elegy, 'The Old Poet, Dying,' [Kleinzahler's] contradictory impulses mesh perfectly, vindicating the poet's risky approach."—Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • August Kleinzahler

  • August Kleinzahler was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1949. He is the author of eleven books of poems and a memoir, Cutty, One Rock. His collection The Strange Hours Travelers Keep was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize, and Sleeping It Off in Rapid City won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. He also received a Lannan Literary Award, and is a recipient of the Arthur Rense Poetry Prize. He lives in San Francisco.

  • August Kleinzahler Mark Savage