A contemporary requiem--an earthy yet elegant reconsideration of the Tristan and Iseult story, from the former poet laureate of Brooklyn.
In D. Nurkse's wood of Morois, the Forest of Love, there's a fine line between the real and the imaginary, the archaic and the actual, poetry and news. The poems feature the voices of the lovers and all parties around them, including the servant Brangien; Tristan's horse, Beau Joueur; even the living spring that flows through the tale ("in my breathing shadow / the lovers hear their voices / confused with mine / promising a slate roof, / a gate, a child . . . "). Nurkse brings us an Iseult who has more power than she wants over Tristan's imagination, and a Tristan who understands his fate early on: "That charm was so strong, no luck could free us." For these lovers, time closes like a book, but it remains open for us as we hear both new tones and familiar voices, eerily like our own, in this age-old story made new again.
About the Author
D. NURKSE is the author of ten previous books of poetry. His recent prizes include a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim fellowship. He has also written on human rights.
“Nurkse’s reimagining makes for beautiful verse . . . The lines are lovely, the lovers are doomed, the legend lives, and then you’re sitting in an empty L train at Eighth Avenue long after the doors have opened to release you.” —Julia Berick, The Paris Review
“Brims with surprise and necessity . . . Inventive, fully imagined, beautifully written . . . Fresh and new, even as it stands in the tradition of the myth with its numerous historic reinventions: [Nurkse’s] portrayal of the lovers is for our time.” —Gardner McFall, American Book Review
“[Resonates] with subtlety and texture . . . From the tale’s medieval texts Nurkse gathered a rich harvest of terms whose evocative, quasimagical powers mingle with modern words and syntax. By turns lyrical and crude, noble and prosaic, even vulgar, this baroque language sets off illuminating details while reconceptualizing reality.” —World Literature in Review, Alice-Catherine Carls
“From long, discursive lines to centered stanzas to concrete and prose poems, the variety of styles keeps the collection lively . . . Nurkse makes the specific experience of these two lovers new.” —Lisa Ampleman, The Kenyon Review
“Nurkse proves a masterful storyteller, rendering this 900-year-old legend thrilling and urgent . . . in poems resembling a richly woven tapestry or a tempered pane of stained glass.” —Diego Báez, Booklist
“Nurkse makes this familiar story something alien, new, and fascinating; like the potion that Tristan and Iseult share, it’s easy to fall under his spell.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Moving . . . Deeply rooted in the oldest surviving literary versions of the tale . . . Certain to be of interest to Nurkse’s readership and fans of Arthurian and medieval legend.” —Graham Christian, Library Journal