In Steven Cramer’s fourth collection of poems, we encounter a winning combination of grace, eclectic intelligence, and dryly comic self-regard. Goodbye to the Orchard is a refreshing tonic to the claustrophobia of much contemporary poetry. Cramer takes subjects that are familiar at first glance and makes them oddly affecting, weirdly fresh. Icons of high and popular culture appear in unpredictable ways, so that as a whole Goodbye to the Orchard strikes an original tone—a curious, undeluded sweetness. No other poet sounds quite the same note.
Cramer employs agile structures in service of ambitious themes, his work by turns brave, disarmingly funny, and adriot at symmetrical form and free-verse syncopation. At the heart of the book we encounter a sister’s fatal illness, and these poems tell us of our search, especially at such last moments, to find words for what can’t, ultimately, be described.
Beginning with the word “defeat” and concluding with the word “alive,” Goodbye to the Orchard testifies that we must remain open in the face of loss, because loss is a given; and that our glimpses of the mysteries—whether of dying or living—are all we’re allowed. But those prismatic views, well rendered, are all we need.
Winner of the 2005 Sheila Motton Prize
from the New England Poetry Club
Named a Massachusetts Honor Book in Poetry for 2005
by the Massachusetts Center for the Book
“This is so rare—to encounter poems written from a thinking-heart! There isn’t a page in this book that isn’t bracing; Steven Cramer is determined to discover what he didn’t know before he started. Bracing in the way of crucial conversations when everything depends on not defending, not glancing away or distracting oneself. I felt implicated in every encounter—that’s what these poems are—encounters with a reality that only the most rigorous poetry can approach. Uncompromising song.”
“[A] deft fourth volume from the Massachusetts-based Cramer. . . . Tender, surprising poems.”
“Cramer means to articulate a complex deeply human problem: how do we see real life with its trauma and inevitable catastrophe as worthy of celebration and allegiance?”