Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
So Where Are We?

So Where Are We?

Poems

Lawrence Joseph

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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“So where are we?” asks Lawrence Joseph in the title poem of his powerful and moving sixth book of poetry. Beginning where his acclaimed collection Into It left off, amid the worldwide violence unleashed by the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Joseph’s poems—global and historic in scope—boldly encounter the imaginative challenges of our time: issues of political economy, labor and capital, racism and war, and “the point at which / violence becomes ontology, / these endless ambitious experiments in destruction, / a species grief.” Against these realities, Joseph presents an intimate, sensuous language of beauty and love, “a separate / palette kept for each poem,” a constant shifting and fluid play of sound and tone. With incisive intensity, intelligence, emotional force, and fierce, uncompromising vision, Joseph speaks from deep within the truths of poetry’s common language. So Where Are We? is extraordinary new work from one of our most distinctive poets.

Reviews

Praise for So Where Are We?

PRAISE FOR SO WHERE ARE WE?

"In [Joseph's] vision violence coexists with, and is occasionally transformed by, beauty and love. Mr. Joseph doesn’t often turn to metaphors or similes for his effects. He relies instead on shifting scenes and perspectives to create a mosaic that melds seeming opposites—violence and transcendence, ancient and contemporary themes, the quotidian and the exalted—into poems both relevant and lasting . . ."—David Skeel, Wall Street Journal

"[An] essential and rare contribution to contemporary poetry . . . So Where Are We? fiercely investigates our location in 'spacetime,' moving through different social spaces by moving through different kinds of language: the philosophical, the legal, the religious, the colloquial. The book combines formal excellence with an acute and prophetic moral vision. It’s that rare collection of poetry that terrifies and sustains, one of the best any contemporary American poet has written." —Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

“[Joseph] is a 21st-century Virgil, a guide to the wreckage we’ve made of enlightenment . . . An Arab-American from the great labor city of Detroit, with its anguished history of racialized violence, one might say Joseph was made for this moment. What beauty and horror he wrenches from the degraded syntax of modern life. Intimate, brave, outraged, hopeful; I’ve not read a book more of and for our times than this collection.” —John Freeman, Lit Hub

“Joseph’s poems are necessary, immediate, somehow absolutely now and eerily ancient. Themes of his previous collections—Lebanese and Syrian Catholic faith and culture, the memory of Detroit, life in New York City—are resurrected here, but this new book feels like a stake in the ground. The interrogation of the title is whispered throughout as a fear.” —Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

"One of the most crucial and distinctive Anglophone poets . . . Joseph is singular in American poetry. A pronounced poet-chronicler, a risk-taker and truth-teller . . . Joseph expertly combines images, ideas, and the language of political economy, labor and capital, racism and war, with expressions of great beauty and physical and emotional intimacy . . . Infused with a fierce, uncompromising moral vision, Joseph’s is a poetry of committed attention, and passionate, unintimidated resistance." —The Common

“Finely crafted . . . Joseph presents delicate stanzas made up of short lines that cast a spell of passion and sensuality. These powerful poems reach across time and distance, public and private, fact and feeling to trace the unity of the human experience.” —Raúl Niño, Booklist

"With lawyerly intelligence, Joseph dissects a litany of contemporary horrors related to war, the police state, and economic precarity . . . The collection’s extraordinary power [lies] in bearing witness to the 'switchblades then gunshots, police in riot gear,/ media coverage, front page headlines.'" —Publishers Weekly

“Lawrence Joseph’s So Where Are We? poses an apt question that resonates throughout the collection as a Socratic nervous system in a time of international woe. The phrases touch up against each other in a tango where the sacred and the profane converge to reveal the interconnectivity of lives and dreams. Indeed, the collection speaks for personal and public democracy, as if made of something more than words—almost metallic, but lyrical and beautiful. So Where Are We? runs on the wheels of passion. And each poem is an inspired, made thing by a poet-advocate who has honed a timely song within an urgent intimacy that embraces the complex density of truth.” —Yusef Komunyakaa


PRAISE FOR LAWRENCE JOSEPH

“Poetry of great dignity, grace, and unrelenting persuasiveness . . . Lawrence Joseph gives us new hope for the resourcefulness of humanity, and of poetry.” —John Ashbery

“I have just found another accomplished and erudite American poet[:] Lawrence Joseph . . . someone who has been toiling away impeccably for decades writing exactly the sort of thing I have so often proclaimed indispensable.” —Clive James, from Latest Readings

“[Lawrence Joseph’s] poems are as focused on voice—offering a kind of rigorous meditation on history and the self’s ability to thrive—as on image or on story or storytelling . . . tracing how in the world of violence and (to use his post-Yeatsian term) disjointedness, poetry must be written to salvage an economy of feeling and reflection, one that can be set against larger intractable, inhuman forces.” —Lisa Steinman, jacket2

“Like Henry Adams, Joseph seems to be writing ahead of actual events, and that makes him one of the scariest writers I know.” —David Kirby, The New York Times Book Review

About the author

Lawrence Joseph

Lawrence Joseph is the author of five previous books of poetry, including Into It; Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973–1993, and Before Our Eyes. He is also the author of two books of prose: Lawyerland, a novel, and The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose. He is the Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law, and he has taught creative writing at Princeton. He is married to the painter Nancy Van Goethem and lives in New York City.

Lawrence Joseph

Ted Ely

Lawrence Joseph

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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