These poems are the best poems from Jonathan Holden’s first seven books, four of which have won significant national competitions: Design for a House (The Devins Award, 1972), Leverage (The AWP Award Series, 1982), The Names of the Rapids (The Juniper Prize, 1985), and The Sublime (The Vassar Miller Prize, 1995). Holden’s command of language is staggering, and his range of subjects is extensive. He writes about sex, mathematics, nationalism, propaganda, baseball, and blackmail with an emotional honesty that pushes his observations in surprising directions that the reader can never anticipate. These poems have a sustained leanness and concentrated power. Holden is a craftsman whose poems carry one along with the vigor and the inevitability of rapids and the illumination of chain lightning.
His dramatic lyrics, like those of the late Richard Hugo, evoke a quality of light in the studied landscapes whose common denominator is solitude but where, through art, beauty and the heartening sense of human community can coexist.