Through six earlier books Karl Kirchwey has rewarded readers with poems of great musicality, visual richness, and historical resonance. Stumbling Blocks: Roman Poems
represents a culmination of his "formal mastery"--an honor often too loosely bestowed in contemporary American poetry, but one Kirchwey thoroughly earns.
As in his 1998 New York Times Notable Book The Engrafted Word
, the city of Rome becomes a lens through which to understand the contemporary human experience and the upheavals of human loss. Stumbling Blocks takes as its starting point the shattered ancient Roman ruins described in Renaissance poet Joachim du Bellay's celebrated sonnet--a landscape of death feeding upon itself and restored to life in the imagination of each successive generation to salvage its own narratives.
Kirchwey builds new arches and mythological intersections in exquisite poems that take long walks in the Eternal City, through landscapes far away and deep within. This gorgeous collection takes us back in time and brings us forward through our Old and New Worlds, revealing through the religion of art both beauty and atrocity.