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The Tunnel: Selected Poems

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  803 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
This prized collection of Russell Edson's prose poems, featuring his own favorites from seven prior collections, constitutes some of the most original American art of this century. This is the book of choice for both new and committed fans of this imaginative poet.
Paperback, 232 pages
Published November 5th 1994 by Oberlin College Press
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Glenn Russell
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Never having done any creative writing as an adult, I took my first writing course many years ago, back when I was in my late thirties. I was given conventional short stories and poems as models but nothing really clicked with me, that is, I knew I wanted to write but wasn’t really inspired by those conventional ways of writing.

Then one day whilst visiting a library in downtown Philadelphia, I came across an anthology called The Anti-Story - a collection of various stories that were reactions ag
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The ape in you
Recommended to s.p by: Charles Simic
The head is death with hair upon it. Also it is a vehicle upon which it is itself to ride through dream and suppertime.

The Tunnel, the selected poems of Russell Edson (1935-2014), is the most refreshing collection of ‘poetry’ that I have encountered in a long time. To call it breathtaking would invoke the right ideas but would also miss the mark by miles—reading Edson is less like losing your breath in beauty and more like being given new lungs and a new atmosphere in which to breath. It is li
Bud Smith
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My friend Joey said to read this and I said I didn't want to. But I read the book after all. And they all lived happily ever after. Except Russell Edson probably because all writers suffer infinitely even if you love their book, ya feel me?
Peter Landau
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Apes, clouds, cows, people, they all have a story to tell. Who's to say anyone should understand it? As long as it makes sense in a nonsensical way; as long as it fits together; as long as its written by Russell Edson. This collection of about 20 years of poetic poems that read like narrative short-short stories, but are not prose because prose isn't poetry and this is poetry: condensed, original language that often feels as if it's missing a word, a sentence, even a paragraph, and yet is comple ...more
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Delightful, Kharms-esque, walking the fine line between flash fiction and prose poetry (and often, in my estimation, crossing it)... Perhaps overly fond of ellipses... Although perhaps those were fashionable in previous decades... I personally prefer sentences to do their own work, without the gooey weirdness of ellipses...
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am still dazzled by Russell Edson's capability to conceive alternative realities, apparently created simply by observing and twisting the most uneventful and trivial side of life. Usually governed by madness and absurdity, these parallel worlds end up being certainly much more eventful than what might be initially expected from the ordinary situations triggering the insanity. Concurrently, the surrealistic nuances of some of the events taking place in the poems provide the 'realms' envisaged b ...more
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"The red mustache which you constantly refer to is the sign of office, /the change of gender, the self inflicted blow, the secondary hair of my my /manhood, the end of my menopause, the return to maidenhood, the /cerebral menses from my nose instead of my under part..., she said." -A Red Mustache

"This is the land of vibrating velvet. Eating itself. Forming itself. This is /the land of death. Endless. Absurd." -Little Dead Man

"What if once on the other side of the door there remains only the ur-/
Marcus Mennes
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book has an odd shape (8x8) and it juts out from my bookshelf, which is indicative of the irregular content within. Edson is an original, his prose poems operate on their own skewed internal logic, a grotesque/uncanny universe with pigeons the size of horses, electric monkeys, and women delivering toads out of their armpits...stuff a fourth grade kid might make up to gross out his kid sister. But I'm underselling Edson. His imagination is quite eclectic, and this is a collection of surprise ...more
Nov 20, 2010 added it
Shelves: poetry
Different poems. One I really liked...

The Fall

There was a man who found two leaves and came
indoors holding them out saying to his parents
that he was a tree.

To which they said then go into the yard and do
not grow in the living room as your roots may
ruin the carpet.

He said I was fooling I am not a tree and he
dropped his leaves.

But his parents said look it is fall.

Brian Foley
Oct 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Emily's mom loves this book and showed it to her as a kid.
I like to think about kids reading this.
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
If Gary Larson was a poet . . .
Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Usually when reading a poet’s selected work, especially one spanning almost twenty years, it is rare to see much consistency in tone, subject matter and form. Instead, one can typically trace threads of influence throughout a career and observe how the poet has shifted through different phases. Russell Edson’s selected poems are the exception to this rule. Since his first volume was published in 1964, Edson has satirically skewered through the territory of human evolution, Freudian psychology an ...more
Feb 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, poetry, 2008
so why have i not read russell edson before? shit! i adored the style of these poems, especially the early ones. "A Love Letter" is gorgeous. "Fire is Not a Nice Guest" is brilliant. i'd describe edson's work as what might happen if salvador dali wrote russian folktales. i admit that the poems towards the end didn't carry the same crackling energy for me, they felt a bit more tired, less of a universe-in-a-waterdrop. at his best, though, edson packs a lot of insight about human nature and about ...more
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us, him
If it were easier to find Russell's individual books, this collection might not be a five-star item. The work included here spans about thirty years and you will doubtless favor some given time period over another (personally, I'm less moved by the earlier pieces). You have to dig around a little for Edson's best poems (and you'll be surprised by the extent to which they resemble the middling ones) but the work is well worth it. Once you've found some favorites, read them aloud to a lover. You'l ...more
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-prose
I've been thinking of Edson since I started rereading Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" (-->see Lisapedia entry for "Desperate Writers Caught in Throes of MFA Program). Goldberg quotes an Edson poem about a toilet sliding into the living room, demanding to be loved. His pieces all have that kind of internal logic it's impossible to argue with. There has been undeniable intimacy with the commode; why is it so impossible to love it?

The toilet leaves, flushing with grief...

Dawnelle Wilkie
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Weird. Gorgeous. Truly one of the most interesting and engaging books I've ever read. With internal and twisting logic that traipses all over surreal and back again, Edson is never dull and often completely shocking. I have never read anything quite like it.

Best enjoyed in small doses over a long period of time. I read one or two a night before bed and it was plenty. Granted, my dreams were a little whacked, but that's to be expected.
Sep 13, 2007 added it
Shelves: poetry
Completely absurd poems that get to the heart of mis/communication. E.g. The Fall

There was a man who found two leaves and came
indoors holding them out saying to his parents
that he was a tree.

To which they said then go into the yard and do
not grow in the living room as your roots may
ruin the carpet.

He said I was fooling I am not a tree and he
dropped his leaves.

But his parents said look it is fall.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm sorry, I'm mad about Edson. His imagination, originality and brass balls are mystically fantatical! My favorite is The Toy Maker. He speaks of wives who call up to the heavens at their husbands who took the easy way out--death. There are fires being pacified by keepers of the insane. Apes whose bodies fall apart because of faulty warranties. But oh the humor, the fun, the originality. How can you not like Russell? Hell, he's from Connecticut! He's got to be great!
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-poetry
Claudia made me read this book. At first I really did not care for the strange, surreal, absurd poetry of Edson. But after awhile, when I let myself roll with the poems rather than trying to make them be logical or analytical, I started to really like Edson's work...seeing folklore, mythic, and other echoes of subconscious lyricism. Ultimately, I think I ended up "channeling" him in some of my own work. In any event, he is -- I think -- an acquired taste.
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-drama
I liked it a lot. It was more a series of nightmarish vignettes than typical poetry. The imagery is really vivid and the themes (primarily the boundary between person and animal/person and thing) are appropriately unsettling. If I were making a movie or TV show, and needed to reflect that a character was having disturbing dreams, then I could easily pick one of these poems at random, film it pretty much word for word, and it will be successful. A good choice for the end of October.
Apr 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have been re-reading this since going to Open Mic Poetry nights. What I like about Edson is his accessibility to the audience with a twist of the surreal to keep it entertaining and real.
I am most enamored with his poem "A Love Letter," in which he addresses the object of his affection with candor and humility.
Rupam Sofsky
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How Russell Edson isn't a household name in poetry circles is beyond me. Deeply funny, dark & surreal, practically every single poem here is brilliant. My first few times reading him, I felt as if my brain was rewiring itself to keep up, to understand & to view the world in a new way. This is essential.
Dec 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
I was finally in the mood to read this one. Really liked it. Difficult to get into because of the bizarre grammar at the beginning. It's as if some of the prose poems were originally formatted like typical poems and the line breaks were deleted. As the book progressed, this went away. I didn't like the poems from the second collection that this book collected though.
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to learn to like prose poems
Shelves: poetry
People have been asking me for years if I've read Edson. Now I know why. His poems' wacky worlds sometimes seem to contain the secret histories of my own poems' landscapes. Over the seven different collections, Edson's prose poems continue to invite readers to think about things in new ways, stretching the imagination of everyday life. Often they tickle your tummy with their funny.
Ori Fienberg
Feb 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-times
In truth Edson has written 25 mind-bogglingly good poems that everyone should read/double-take at. Then he has another 400 poems derivative of the other 25, but the tone is consistent, and he is the god-father of the prose poem.
Jeff Buddle
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A man decides to read a book of poetry. He opens the book and puts a finger on the first line. The first thing he realizes is that this isn't a normal book of poetry. The lines are long. Nothing is enjambed. Why, this is prose!

The man reads the lines, moving his finger under the text. Something is going on here, he thinks. There are poems about animated ape's hands and red mustaches, there are strange, stilted arguments and weird dream imagery. He's never read poems like this before.

And then his
Amex Rijal
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
bahwa puisi tidak sama dengan memperindah kalimat atau penggunaan kata-kata canggih. dgn bahasa percakapan sehari-hari yg sederhana, russell edson dalam puisi2nya menciptakan kondisi/momen--seringkali lewat interaksi antar tokoh2 rekaan (benda, anggota badan, binatang, atau manusia)--untuk mengungkapkan masalah/perasaan yg kompleks: hubungan dominasi orangtua-anak, eksistensialisme, kesepian, kehampaan hidup, dan sebagainya dan sebagainya~

sekilas seperti prosa mini, tp yg membuatnya tetap disebu
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Finding this book in a used bookstore was a jaw-dropper for me. I grabbed it and hid it underneath other books in my cart on the off chance someone else who realized what a find it was would also see it and we would have to fight to the death for it. At $3, price was not an object.

I think the first time I came across Russell Edson's work was in a collection of "flash fiction" many many years ago. I don't even recall if he was included in an anthology of prose poetry I later read. His work is ver
Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Does anyone remember that Simic quote where he says something like in the perfect world Russell Edson would be the Poet Laureate? Now Simic is poet Laureate and it goes without saying that we live in an imperfect world. However, the perfection of the world, or lack there of, has nothing at all to do with the Poet Laureate.

Apr 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
I see that the vast majority of reviewers loved this collection, but it was completely not my thing. It was like a cross between reading a dream journal and a 3am tumblr shitpost. Just not enough substance in the surreality.
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Russell Edson was born in Connecticut in 1935 and currently resides there with his wife Frances. Edson, who jokingly has called himself "Little Mr. Prose Poem," is inarguably the foremost writer of prose poetry in America, having written exclusively in that form before it became fashionable. In a forthcoming study of the American prose poem, Michel Delville suggests that one of Edson's typical "re ...more
More about Russell Edson
“So Mr Brain opened his mouth to let a moonbeam into his head.” 3 likes
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