Natural History
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Natural History

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Dan Chiasson, hailed as “one of the most gifted poets of his generation” upon the appearance of his first book, takes inspiration for his stunning new collection from the Historia Naturalis of Pliny the Elder.

“What happens next, you won’t believe,” Chiasson writes in “From the Life of Gorky,” and it is fair warning. This collection suggests that a person is like a world,...more
Hardcover, 88 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Knopf
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I stumbled upon this book my accident, really - a happy accident, it turns out. I got it via Book Mooch (which I highly recommend - in lieu of a book by Charlie Smith that the owner couldn't find. To be honest, I wasn't even going to read this, as all of the previous poems by Dan Chiasson I've read didn't do much for me. But once I started it I couldn't put it down. Natural History is really, really good. I am not in love with it, but I would say I have a crush. I especially l...more
Oct 14, 2007 Melissa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like poems about elephants (and I'm one of those!)
I liked how self-referential these poems were... Chiasson's references to himself were both touching and cheeky. They drew clearly on an individual's set of influences, and I enjoy tracing a poet's preoccupations.
want to love it, don't love it.

but it does many things that i want it to do. it just never lifts off---
I'm glad, five years later, I revisited this poetry, and I'm unsurprised to find a mature and slyly humorous collection—no wonder it went over my head the first time around, a time when I was mostly stuffing my face with junk food poetics. I am amazed at the cohabitation in these poems of irreverence and solemnity. I am also amazed at Chiasson's ability to inhabit ancient voices and craftily appropriate them for his purposes: he often knows exactly why he is drawn to certain writers, and also kn...more
Got this one as gift from a colleague. Was one of the better collections of contemporary poetry I have read in some time. Chiasson's poetry has a colloquial ease with an unobtrusive techincal mastery. If anyone typically bypasses the poetry aisle in the bookstore or online, not knowing where to start (beyond the Frost you read in high school)I would consider this a nice re-introduction.
Considering how much Roman poetry makes an appearance in this book, it's probably not a huge stretch to say that Chiasson's voice reminds me a lot of Horace. But I say this in that good way, where Horace takes the common and everyday and social, and makes you feel his attitude toward it, this attitude that is so florid and enthusiastic just for the love of feeling.
The book makes it boldest, most poignant statement in the 5-page "'Scared by the Smallest Shriek of a Pig, and When Wounded, Always Give Ground.'" that ends the collection. Everything there comes together in a way that it doesn't seem to elsewhere, making the poem the perfect coda for a deliberately wide-ranging work.
Natural History is a delight of a poem, and "Poem beginning with a line from Frost' is such a beautiful cascade...

I was suprised. Very pleasantly surpised. Rescue a copy from a bargain bin when you next come across it.
dan chiasson does things that i could never do in ways that make language exciting. i like that his language is straightforward but his images and allusions are dark mirrorways into things you might not see otherwise.
Curtis Bauer
The poem about the elephant "practicing" blew my mind. Thanks Mr. Chiasson for introducing me to Pliny...I browsed most of his writings after reading this book.
The Guardian says it better than I ever could:
A gorgeous collection of poems. Each was more marvelous than the next.
My favorite modern poet. Years later, lines will drift back to me...
talented but irritatingly self-infatuated.
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