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Natural History

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  105 Ratings  ·  16 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,
Hardcover, 88 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Knopf
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Jul 21, 2008 D'Anne rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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 09, 2007 Melissa rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 22, 2008 kc rated it really liked it
want to love it, don't love it.

but it does many things that i want it to do. it just never lifts off---
May 27, 2010 Justin rated it really liked it
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
Nov 17, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 01, 2009 Kent rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 02, 2012 Willys rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 12, 2008 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 08, 2008 secondwomn rated it really liked 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.
Feb 21, 2009 Mandy rated it it was amazing
My favorite modern poet. Years later, lines will drift back to me...
Paige Bailey
Jan 03, 2012 Paige Bailey rated it it was amazing
Curtis Bauer
Jan 02, 2010 Curtis Bauer rated it liked it
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.
Jan 16, 2009 Ginny rated it liked it
The Guardian says it better than I ever could:
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