Perhaps Paul Kareem Taylor said it best in his piece called On the Road Again: Barbara Hamby’s American Odyssey: “Reading Barbara Hamby’s poetry is like going on a road trip, one where the woman behind the wheel lets you ride shotgun as she speeds across the open highways of an America where drive-in movie theaters still show Janet Leigh films on Friday nights, hardware stores have not been driven out of business by soulless corporate titans, and where long poetic lines first introduced by Walt Whitman and resurrected by Ginsberg are pregnant with a thousand reasons to marvel at the world we inhabit.”
Whether On the Street of Divine Love is the best book of poems in the world will long be debated by literary scholars (some stuffed shirts still put forth The First Folio or a Goldbarth title) but surely it is the world: snazzily beatific, unashamedly carnal, at sumptuous ease with both the down-home blues and the intellectual high life, sometimes porch sitting and sometimes globe-trotting, and always in love with life and with a multiplex language that proves the love, this book is a true blue spinning planet; maybe there are nine in our system after all!
On the Street of Divine Love bursts with Barbara Hamby's signature wit and verbal twists. If language were an Olympic sport—and why is it not?—Hamby would bring home the gold in bungee-jumping bobsledding, boogie-woogie boxing, and soul-searching curling. Her poems sparkle with their top-notch surfaces, then bring us deep into the gusto of life, the painful and ecstatic truths. Readers will want to linger On the Street of Divine Love.
Her words whirl along the pages encased in a cyclone of metaphor and images, full of passion and reality. . . .Hamby's unconventional style causes page after page to turn and upon reading the last page of this selected poetry collection, the reader is left looking for more. She is a poet of energy, breathing life into words with passion. The way a poet should.
Get ready for a wild ride when you dive into Barbara Hamby's 'On the Street of Divine Love.' You'll soon be roaring down avenues of the alphabet with a poet who is dazzled by—and a master of—our lingo. . . .The effervescent and all-encompassing nature of Hamby's poems give the reader a sense of discovery and vitality.
Beyond their beautiful words, these poems are psychological expeditions, portals into complex layers of time and space—and not just the streets of Italy, Paris, and London where her speakers often find themselves. In Hamby's writing, memory, both personal and collective, is a constant layer over the present.
Barbara Hamby's 'On the Street of Divine Love' is magnificent. Containing fifteen new poems and a distillation of her previous four collections, it should secure her place among the best American poets. Hamby is the master of the contemporary ode, many of which are included here, and the collection as a whole is an ode to words, not in a sterile, theoretical way, but in a way that is 'giddy with being alive'. . . . They are a feast
Hamby's poems are good-natured, gossipy, and fun . . . She attempts to render in verse the near chaos of perception that typifies human consciousness as it careers through a lifetime's worth of unruly accident . . . With its delight in sensuality and in the sensuality of speech above all, with its yoking together of serious and casual concerns, with its steady stream of confidences occasioned by irruptions of memory, there is a lot to like in Hamby's verse . . . You might come away from 'On the Street of Divine Love' thinking its author is not only an excellent poet but would also make an ideal conversationalist over dinner. We can't all wangle the invitation, but we can all read her quick-witted, exuberant, and molto simpatico book.
[Hamby] has cultivated a polyglot idiom all her own, of anecdotes, erudition, and American pop culture. She combines a deadly serious love for the power of language with irreverence; she leaps across historical periods and yokes unlikely referents.
Barbara Hamby is the author of six books of poems, including On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems, Babel, and All-Night Lingo Tango. She was a 2010 Guggenheim fellow in Poetry and her book of short stories, Lester Higata’s 20th Century, won the 2010 Iowa Short Fiction Award. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including the New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Yale Review. She has also edited an anthology of poems, Seriously Funny, with her husband David Kirby. She teaches at Florida State University where she is Distinguished University Scholar.learn more