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Who’s Asking?

ISBN: 9781934695623
Binding: Paperback
Author: Keith Ratzlaff
Pages: 88
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 3/1/2020

To say these poems balance on the fulcrum between grief and joy is too easy. Who’s Asking? is a book of questions — about the nature of wonder, of meaning, questions about being caught between earth and heaven like the angels of Paul Klee’s paintings who speak some of these poems. In other words, questions about the rigorous yet remorseless undertaking of being human.

Large questions that bulge with “a terrible asking” but also those that bloom from close observation of the most ordinary circumstance. All of them shaded by the unrelenting awareness that “Nobody gets saved.” And yet this book is gifted with unexpected humor, unequivocal wisdom.

 

Keith Ratzlaff is the author of Man Under a Pear, winner of the 1996 Anhinga Poetry Prize selected by Robert Dana; Across the Known World; Dubious Angels:  Poems after Paul Klee; and Then, A Thousand Crows as well as two poetry chapbooks.  His poems and reviews have appeared in magazines and journals including The American Reader, The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, The Georgia Review, and The Hudson Review, and The Threepenny Review.  He’s won the Theodore Roethke Award, two Pushcart Prizes and was included in The Best American Poetry 2009. He lives in Pella, Iowa.

 

"To say the poems in this remarkable collection balance on the fulcrum between grief and joy is too easy. It’s as though Keith Ratzlaff has roused the gods in their rosy heaven and demanded attention. Who’s Asking? is a book of questions — about the nature of wonder, of meaning, questions about being caught between earth and heaven like the angels of Paul Klee’s paintings who speak some of these poems. In other words, questions about the rigorous yet remorseless undertaking of being human. Large questions that bulge with “a terrible asking” but also those that bloom from close observation of the most ordinary circumstance. All of them shaded by the unrelenting awareness that “Nobody gets saved.” And yet this book is gifted with unexpected humor, unequivocal wisdom. A longtime fan of Keith Ratzlaff, I continue to marvel at his ability to pull hare after hare from a hat too small for any head, each time causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand and applaud."—Andrea Hollander

"To potent and pulsing effect, Keith Ratzlaff’s speaker places himself and his thoughts in many times — a present moment of quietly watering his garden or thinking his storm-jolted plane is about to crash; Boccaccio’s Italy; the recent history of a fellow poet’s school suffering a mass shooting; third-century China in the company of another compatriot poet; or the no-time time of artist Paul Klee’s angels, with whom Ratzlaff has a fruitful obsession. Recalling a 1957 visit with friends to Bill’s barbershop, the smart/sad/hopeful voice of Who’s Asking? says, 'we thought we could see ourselves / in the two facing walls of his mirrors, / reflecting both ways to infinity.' From such apparent daily-ness and simplicity, this poet culls complexities and cuts to our hearts."—Stephen Corey

 

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