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October 2006
88 pages  

5.875 x 9
9780822959359
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Brother Salvage
Poems
Hilles, Rick
Winner of the 2005 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.

Winner of the 2008 Whiting Writer’s Award.

Winner of the 2007 Poetry Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Magazine.

The poems are heartrending and incisive. Through the poet’s eloquent craft, painful histories and images (such as the Holocaust) are beautifully and luminously preserved.

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Rick Hilles is assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University and is the author of the poetry collection Brother Salvage, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. He has been the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholar, a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and a Ruth and Jay C. Halls Fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Hilles is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and the Larry Levis Editor’s Prize in Poetry from the Missouri Review. He and his wife, the fiction writer Nancy Reisman, live in Nashville.
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The name of the title poem—“Brother Salvage: a genizah,” provides a skeleton key to unlock the powerful forces that bind Rick Hilles’s collection. A genizah is a depository, or hiding place, for sacred texts. It performs a double function: to keep hallowed objects safe and to prevent more destructive forces from circulating and causing further harm. Brother Salvage serves exactly this purpose. The poems are heartrending and incisive, preserving stories and lives that should not be forgotten. Yet, through the poet’s eloquent craft, painful histories and images are beautifully and luminously contained. Like scholars sifting through ancient genizahs in search of spiritual and historical insights, readers immersed in Brother Salvage will find, at the heart of the book, the most sacred entity: hope.
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“In this remarkably fulfilled first book I salute a visionary poet who has eluded the provincialism of our American Narcissus: Hilles has gathered violent glosses and ventriloquial gleams from the ruined scriptures of Europe, reaching as far back as Swedenborg, Novalis, even Catherine Blake, and as far ahead as what I had (wrongly) supposed the sealed echo-chamber of the Holocaust. Hence the sought and granted power of his luminous texts, so reticent yet so generous, their authority proceeding from banked energies of consultation.”—Richard Howard

“The poems in Brother Salvage are the traffic between worlds—between past and present, self and other, beauty and horror. These are passionate acts of retrieval—deeply intelligent and superbly graceful, they bring us news of the human wherever it survives, ‘alive and at the brink of shattering.’”—Kim Addonizio

“Hilles is a poet very much of our moment, one that does not seem to pass. He reflects a tension between realistic depiction even of atrocity and a countervailing decorum based on a deeply sensitive empathic gift. He thinks himself into others, ordinary folk, or near-mythic figures. His cascading images and brilliant metaphors juxtapose everyday life and the Holocaust with precision as well as pathos. Poetry in his hands is a recording mechanism aware it cannot keep up yet also refusing to overlook ‘the smallest thing that ever made you want your life.’”—Geoffrey Hartman

"Rick Hilles should be commended for taking on the large and risky task of writing poems on various cultures and their political histories in this book. From the Holocaust to ancient Egyptian mysteries to the work of Paul Eluard, Hilles approaches complex dimensions of history in highly crafted and brilliant poems. He is successful because he gives himself the lyrical room and forms to succeed. Each poem is different, is structured in challenging ways, and resonates with the skill and talent of a young poet coming into his own and bringing the world with him." —Bloomsbury Review

"It is said that the world must 'remember' or 'never forget.' How can that effectively prevent anti-Semitism or any other act of mass genocide? When humanity is mentally and emotionally touched to the core with realistic accounts, then perhaps [it] will be moved to do more than just observe and remark about an experience far beyond [its] knowledge. Brother Salvage does just that. ...This reviewer was riveted by the poignancy of these Holocaust poems."—Jewish Book World

“At one time poetry was praised for its ability to astonish ordinary people. Then television took over, and poetry became a murmuring monotone from the back row. Now Rick Hilles, in his first book, shows us how even life in our time can be astonished.”—Hayden Carruth

“The narratives that spread their darkness and their enchantment through the beautiful pages of this book--narratives of wartime internment, peacetime separation, assaults on memory and against-all-odds recuperation--are so complex and many-faceted one would have sworn they were beyond the compass of the lyric poem. But Brother Salvage arrives to teach us all over again how much the lyric poem, with manifold grace and perfect limpidity, can do. Rick Hilles wrests brotherhood and blessing, the face of the human, from a savage history.”—Linda Gregerson

”Shows the power of the narrative in poetry to remind us, in concise and elegant language, of our shared humanity. . . . Between Hilles’ mastery of Keats’ ‘negative capability’ and his command of language both elegant yet clear and clean, these poems and their narrators move before the reader’s eyes, engage and entice us to listen to stories that, no matter how large or small, deserve to be heard and treasured.”—Ohioana Quarterly


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