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Totem

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  52 ratings  ·  7 reviews
“Gregory Pardlo . . . wants to explore the druidic function of art, the works of jazz musicians, painters, poets, and others who live imaginatively, expand reality, and make imagination free.”—Brenda Hillman, from the introduction

Totem, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, is the debut of a poet who has been listening for decades. In his youth, Gregory Pardlo hear
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Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by American Poetry Review
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Brina
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Over the past year I have often found myself with a volume of poetry at bedtime. I find that poetry runs the gamut of human emotions and offers a window into the writer's soul and is also a relaxing and usually fun way to wind down at night. Through my personal Pulitzer challenge, I discovered the works of Gregory Pardlo. Pardlo won the Pulitzer in 2014 for Digest, a poignant collection of poetry that left me in awe of his writing. Seven years prior to Digest, Pardlo emerged as a leading contemp ...more
Richard
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: poetry fans, readers of Claudine Rankine
Recommended to Richard by: news
I ordered Pardlo's books when he won the 2015 Pulitzer. Totem is the earlier (2007) volume.

I was stunned by the opening poem, "Landscape with Intervention," five pages of surreal jump-cuts bound by delicate intricacies with broad cultural references both high and low--Rilke and Baudelaire, "Jim Crow," Magritte, graffiti, etc, etc. The poem which follows is a "Totem," one of four in the book, the second in each section. My favorite:

Totem (p 73)
Jasbro Brown

"I flashed tunes, grinning like a new hub
...more
Charlotte Pence
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Intelligent, rhythmic, rolling and rollicking, these poems present the unexpected in their verbal flex and force. Pardlo’s lines are physical. Imaginatively compressed. Consider this excerpt from “Suburban Noir:”
… Electric sea-water ripples rec-room windows
in the background through the compound dark
of pine-grove and sun down. Beneath a flood light,
a dog’s bark breaks across the school’s cinder block
where a goal is painted, into which a boy percusses//
an endlessly relived penalty kick.
Combining
...more
Abby
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
My husband and I went to hear Gregory Pardlo read his work some months ago. We bought a copy of this book and when he signed it, he wrote on the title page: "Abby & Guion -- Thanks for letting me sleep on your sofa! Gregory Pardlo." Which was amusing, because he never did such a thing. I feel like his poetry strikes much of the same humorous chord--a surprising jest, a beautiful phrase, all coming out of left field. His poem "Double Dutch" is especially memorable to me, because told of a young g ...more
Kent
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Each of the longer poems opening the four sections of this book are absolutely amazing. They aspire to a depth of insight, and intelligence, and character that cannot ever satisfy an eager reader. I simply wanted the book to go on the way those poems do. But the book doesn't. Aside from these four magnificent poems, the book is flat and uninspiring. These might be strong words, but the poet sets a high bar with these four poems, to the point that the remaining poems feel simply like filler. ...more
Olivia
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have recently read a poem from Totem titled, Double Dutch, and found it both beautifully written and thoughtful. This young girl has a wild imagination that can take her anywhere, and he depicts that very well throughout the entire poem. I also love the alliteration he uses. Consider this excerpt from Double Dutch:

"How
the whole stunning contraption of girl and rope
slaps and scoops like a paddle boat.
Her misted skin arranges the light
with each adjustment and flex. Now heather-
hued, now sheen, l
...more
Kat Clyde
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh
Pardlo's poetry is very very hard to understand. I don't really enjoy poetry that it's absolutely necessary for me to have google and a dictionary at hand so I can interpret, or at least attempt to interpret it. I felt like he was rubbing it in my nose that he's a higher educated person in the poetry field than I every hope to be. ...more
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Gregory Pardlo’s first book, Totem, received the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, as well as anthologies including Angles of Ascent, the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, and two editions of Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of a New York Foundation ...more

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