Winner: 2013 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
The hard center of The Law of Falling Bodies bears down on the twin enmities of pain and loss. But the book ranges over a broad field, with poems covering everything from the inundations of summer rain (“It’s like living in the spit valve of a big trombone”) to a lovesick drunk listening to Patsy Cline (“My drink’s on the rocks, and I am, too.”) Glaser begins with the quirks and revelations of nature, shifts to those difficult adjustments we make as the body breaks down, modulates to a series of scenes imbued with music, and ends on an elegiac note in memory of his late wife (“Grief follows me like a dog behind the butcher’s truck”). Along the way, the poems touch on a restless scale of tones, as light as the indignant comedy of “It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Stupidity” and as heartbreakingly dark as “Autopsy.” At the core is the constant interplay of an agile mind and rich language—what Ezra Pound called “the dance of the intellect among words”—always feeling out what it is to be human.
“Through his seven previous books, Elton Glaser has been like Elvis: a poet who can ‘sing all kinds’ and sound like nobody else. From the opening lines of The Law of Falling Bodies, Glaser’s voice is again pitch perfect—sometimes tender, sometimes raucous—as he longs for April’s ‘syllables/ Of slow elation’ or describes a crocus with ‘more gold / In its mouth than a Mississippi bluesman.’ But as pain and grief devastate his life, his poems deepen into a new register. In searing, heartbreaking elegies, in a voice ‘hurt into eloquence,’ Glaser gives us his most powerful work yet.”
—Lynn Powell, author of The Zones of Paradise and Framing Innocence
“Elton Glaser’s special voice has often been that of the morose student of unlikely beauty. In this newest collection, the ante is unexpectedly raised, by unforeseen elements of tremendous pain and loss in the poet’s own life. Out beyond self-pity, like a tragic hero who is somehow both Lear and Lear’s Fool, conversing and sometime joking in the storm, Glaser sings of his diminished world, his learning from loss, in poems that are rousing, heartbreaking, unforgettable.”
—David Young, author of Field of Light and Shadow
“Over the years Elton Glaser has, with a quiet fortitude and an exceptional lyric precision, fashioned a commendable body of work, and this new collection is his best thus far. The Law of Falling Bodies is notable both for the surprise and exactitude of its imagery and for an imagination that works in splendid sync with something very much like wisdom. These are taut, haunting, and durable poems by a writer of the first order.”
—David Wojahn, author of World Tree