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If Men, Then: Poems

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A darkly humorous new collection of poems by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Wideawake Field and Amity and Prosperity

If Men, Then, Eliza Griswold's second poetry collection, charts a radical spiritual journey through catastrophe. Griswold's language is forthright and intimate as she steers between the chaos of a tumultuous inner world and an external l
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Feb 25, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020, poetry
Alternately clever and somber poems about antiquity, Western Asia, and the Mediterranean, exploring myth as well as the sorrows and joys of daily life.
Nadine Jones
Dec 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, r2020-in-2020
The opening poems were very strong and emotional: 

What can we offer the child
at the border: a river of shoes,
her coat stitched with coins,
her father killed for his teeth,
her mother, sewing her
daughter’s future into a hem.

Alone, but for a brother who shoves her
ahead through the barbed-wire fence,
knowing she’s safer without him —
a truth she cannot yet fathom,
being too young for the ways of men.

Nothing is what we can offer.
The child died years ago.
Except practice a finer caliber of kindness
Amy Layton
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Who knew that poetry and politics could coincide?  Told through the acknowledgement of both devastating political events as well as thruogh a character named "I", Griswold creates a world that is somehow both true and false--the place between fiction and non-fiction.  It works out enormously well, and she has been able to combine these genres as well as topics in ways that I didn't even know was possible.  Overall, a beautiful, fresh take at what poetry is and what it could be.

Review cross-liste
Ed Meek
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it

The intersection of style and content in poetry can be powerful and effective — a way poets can help their readers find order amid the chaos of our current era, to paraphrase Robert Frost. The trick is to arrive at the right balance of aesthetic and content. In art, the aesthetic must come first. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold” is, after all, prose. The line works because it builds on an opening metaphor. And because the statement’s succinctness reverberates with us (still) in an age
It has such a helicopter view of time and place that I am sure about 95% of the references went over my head and most of the time it felt like I was reading a different language, but at the same time one of the most engaging parts of this collection was the transition back and forth between the expansive world and the individual. More for the regular poetry reader or someone who a solid foundation of world history than the casual dipper inner and outer.
Rhiley Jade
Mar 02, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5/5 stars!
The first piece in this collection is one of my new favorite poems. After finishing it, I had to take a steadying breath because the words resonated with me so deeply. I assumed I'd love all of the other pieces just as much, but unfortunately not all of them were up to par. Debated giving it 4/5 stars, but I found that a few of the poems were more information than poetry, so I couldn't justify giving it 4 stars.
Definitely recommend though!
3-3.5 stars
Luke Gorham
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020, poetry
2 1/2. Reference-heavy poetry that probably necessitates more context that I afforded it, but I would have cared more to do the work if the writing were up to par. And this tension between antiquity and modernity that Griswold so considers profound is ultimately undone by her own bluntness - including the phrase "Fake News" in a poem set in Ancient Greece isn't all that interesting, sorry. ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked up If Men, Then randomly at a bookstore, being completely unaware of the acclaim its author has received. I read the first lines, and immediately thought, wow, I need to read this. Eliza Griswold is a journalist who has worked in conflict zones and won the 2019 Pulitzer for her nonfiction book on fracking in Appalachia. Her poetry is beautiful and dark, spanning topics like the refugee crisis, war, identity, love, history and more.

On war:
"Twenty men crossing a bridge,
into a village,
is n
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I find it difficult to find poetry that I can really savour but I thoroughly enjoyed Griswold's collection. I find poetry about war, antiquity, and myths to be particularly resonant. Griswold's writing is engaging, sharp, and intricate. I am interested in seeking out some of her articles to learn more about her experiences as a journalist.

Here are some lines I particularly connected with at this time:

"We turn to the wisdom of elsewhere.
In the bookstore, we find
Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
shelved in
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
I don’t know why but the framing of this book and yet it’s extremely limited focus bothered me? the complete lack of analysis of settler colonialism in a series of poems that contends with Afghanistan, the DRC and Greek myth really irritates. while this is obviously based on the author’s subjectivity and experiences as a reporter, the hypocrisy of the words “inherited America” stings in a poetry collection centered on how men have ruined the world.
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I listened to this as an audio book, and as a bed time story. It was read by the author, and there is something about hearing a poem in a way that the author thought it should be read. The poems deal with some dark themes--war, refugees, struggle, but they are tinged with hope. Though in these dark times I find some solace in poetry working through difficult ideas. I would like to revisit this book in printed form.
Jan 28, 2021 added it
This collection is divided into four sections. Section Three was my favorite. I liked the poems "Apotheosis," "Slough," and "Toward a New Year" best.

"all walls speak of weakness,
the need to mount defense." --from "Snow in Rome"

"A being
is nothing other than what lingers." --from "Ode to Thucydides"
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, poetry
Griswold is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who also compiled an anthology of poems by Afghan women. That experience influences her poems about surviving the world of violence and pollution and finding one's own way. Smart and hopeful but not saccharine, a strong collection. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This took me all around the world, through time, and then brought me home once again. I would love to read more of her poetry!
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Poignant & heartbreaking without ever becoming sentimental. A book to keep & re-read.
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Personal taste. I enjoyed some of the poems, but overall this book didn't really connect with me. ...more
Karam (bookishskippy)
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
If men then is a poetry book which talks about the daily pain and sorrow one woman felt in their lives due to war and crisis. Swipe right to check out my fav poem!
It has a very dark and emotional theme but but wrote it in a way to send out a message to everyone in the world to be safe. Cherish what you have and not take it for granted.
This was my first poetry book of the year. Managed to pick this up from the @publiclibrarysg at tampines hub. They have a wide range of new and common poetry boo
Courtney LeBlanc
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
A collection of poems that discuss myth/mythology, world conflict, and internal conflict. Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting with any of the poems in this collection.

from XII: Survival: A User's Guide: "Before the word disposable / became immoral, nothing / was forever-- / not Styrofoam or time: / Not money, and not I. / I didn't intend to last. / She depended on not lasting. / Disappearing's tougher / than it seems."

from XIV: Cookie: "I jokes she's a Scout / knocking on your soul's doo
Matthew Sciarappa
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Mar 19, 2021
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Apr 07, 2021
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Feb 29, 2020
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Nov 19, 2020
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Feb 18, 2020
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Mar 05, 2021
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Mar 30, 2020
Alexandria Claussell
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Nov 17, 2020
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Eliza Griswold is an American journalist and poet. She was a fellow at the New America Foundation from 2008 to 2010 and won a 2010 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


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