Delirium (Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry) by Barbara Hamby

By Barbara Hamby

Winner of the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, 1994.

Barbara Hamby makes her poems out of jokes, Italian words, fees from saints and philosophers, references to nutrients eaten and wines under the influence of alcohol. In a fluid, compelling voice, she units a level, peoples it with genuine and imagined characters, spins them into dizzying movement, after which makes every little thing disappear as with a wave of a conjurer's wand, leaving the reader to ask yourself, “Did that occur, or did I dream it?” One leaves her poetry the best way one leaves a depressing theater on a July afternoon, confident that the standard passions rather will not do—they must be greater, as huge as they're in those poems.

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Additional info for Delirium (Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry)

Example text

Beauty and speed"quite a credo, more like Cocteau's heroine on amphetamines than anything on which to base your life, and the divine Oscar ending up so badly in prison for that silly prettyboy and his great bully of a father. Then after walking along the Seine, beauty and health gone but the muscle of irony intact. And in the end what could be more satisfying, for beauty abandons everyone, and praise is like an inhalation, sweet in the blood for a moment and then forgotten in the flurry of evil that buzzes around our heads.

Is the count's brother plotting to kill him? It seems entirely plausible, given the archways and thick walls of our present hacienda.  We have a courtyard with a fountain and lemon trees in pots, and a bedroom the size of Versailles with paintings in gold frames. I lie in bed and gaze across the room at the portrait of a delicate young man or robust woman, the chiaroscuro being more scuro than chiaro, And this cavalier (a he, I believe, rosy lips and languid eyes notwithstanding) wears a wide-brimmed hat with feathers and a lace jabot, glances seductively over his shoulder.

But you are the busy oneindustrious, even. What are you doing? " We are lying on a blanket, a spread, on a Tuscan hill, the light marching over cedars and pines like soldiers off to some inconclusive skirmish with the horizon.  I am under the impression that we have eaten. "I need nourishment," you cry, taking a melone. We are hungry. The thing I love most about being in Italy, besides eating out of doors, is eating out of doors, parched mouth to parched mouth, scorched arms, searching blind for that other one who eats, talks, thinks, breathes the same air, though alone, really, and deliberate as light.

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