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Truant Pastures
The Complete Poems of Harry C. Staley
Truant Pastures
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Harry C. Staley - Author
George Drew - Introduction
Excelsior Editions
Price: $16.95 
Paperback - 150 pages
Release Date: September 2011
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-3834-4

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Poems that ponder the conundrums of existence and religious faith in wartime.


I try to hold my sleep against the dawn

I sleep against the outside light where crows

(nuns and Sergeants   priests and colonels)

conspire in the brightening yard

calling me from play   calling me from flight

back through the pillow   calling me from flight

beyond Saigon, beyond Hanoi, and Seoul

calling me from flight

I fly high beyond the call

cursing God for every shattered wall

I sleep against the clarifying day   against a plebiscite

of murdered selves   forgotten relatives and mean

authorities  bleeding friends  parents and parishioners

conspiring with a squad of crows

to call me back again   to call me down

to call me back  to call and   call and call

“There is nothing uncertain about the art of Harry Staley. Technically, his work is masterful. Yet technique, no matter how superb, is not enough. Ultimately, it is vision and commitment to it that separates pretenders from legitimate heirs. If this volume of collected poems is daunting in its iconography, its historicity, and its Joycean wordplay, its rewards for the persistent reader are clear: a deep compassion heightened into grace through the powerful medium of a pesky art called poetry.” — From the Introduction, “The Pesky Art of Harry C. Staley,” by George Drew

“The portrait of the speaker in the majority of these poems is one of a man conflicted in his religious faith, in his faith in his fellow human community, in the wars that religion has persuaded his fellow humans to take part in, and which he is not only witness to but a participant in—although in an ironic fashion that plagues him. These poems subtly and quietly promote a way of seeing and participating in the world. Offered in the context of Roman Catholicism and war, Staley demonstrates an understanding that is deeply spiritual, yet does not yield to easy, forgiving answers. His poems do not obfuscate or push the reader away through elliptical flurries of thought or unfamiliar—although the language-play is a real pleasure, not only sending us into flights of linguistic fancy but ruminative space for pondering the conundrums of existence in wartime.” — Todd F. Davis, coeditor of Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets

Harry C. Staley is a noted Joyce scholar and Professor Emeritus of English at the University at Albany–SUNY, where he taught from 1956 until his retirement in 1993. His poems have been published in Groundswell, The Snail’s Pace Review, Psycho-poetry, Kalamazoo Review, The Little Magazine, The Pennsylvania Literary Review, The Arizona Quarterly, and Voices. His previous books of poetry include The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain, a narrative in poetry that follows the life of Charles J. McCaffery from his birth in 1920 to his death in a nursing home in 1987, and All One Breath: Selected Poems, a series of autobiographical poems that draw from his war experiences.

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Table of Contents


Introduction I
Judith E. Johnson

Chalk It

Introduction II: The Pesky Art of Harry C. Staley
George Drew

Part I: Early Times

The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain: Charles McCaffery (b. 1920 d. 1987)
Preliminary Report From Dr. Peters, Geo-therapist
Penmanship (1931, 1984)
Argument from Design
Nocturnes (from early films)
1. Dog-fight
2. Autopsy
3. Double-Feature
4. All Quiet on the Western Front
Services (1929)
Biology One (1934, 1957)
Take Us In Mister?
Asymptote (1945)
Le Bourget

Part II: Therapy (1970–1974)

Dark Cubes
Morning Song
About the Aeneid
Mother Behold Thy Son
Early Gothic
Tidings (Christmas 1930s, 1973)
Ex-Capt. McCaffery
Fr. Charles Visits Athens
Voltages and a Fading Coal

Part III: Last Years and Nursing Home

Final Diagnosis
Fish, Two Grown-ups, Christ (1975)
The Unknown General
Parakeet and Pilot (1979)
Late Winters
1. This Cold
2. That Year’s Moon
In the Nursing-Home
1. The Senile General in the Garden
2. The Senile General Contemplates a Snail
3. The Senile General Remembers High School
4. McCaffery’s Solitaire (Nurse’s notes)
5. Transfusions
6. McCaffery’s Bardo
7. McCaffery’s Karma
The Final Flight

All One Breath

Thomas Kelly
Fourth Commandment
Early Mission
Beyond Victory
First Will and Testament
Tom Kelly’s Journal: Two Kills
Entreaty [‘45]
Nostalgia Bar

Professor Kelly
A Letter from Tom Kelly, Sr.
The Rat
Kelly and Some Graves
Obese as Buddha
Interrogating the Ph.D.-Proposal
About Lower Case
Tom Kelly Mimics R-b-rts-n D-v---s
Construing Aliquis
Never Say Dido
Rest Energy and the Doe
About His Grandson
A Sermon Kelly Never Heard
Waiting for Beckett
Waking towards the Last December
Elegy for Thomas Kelly

Cain and Other Relatives
I Slew Abel
Two Meals
Cute Kelly’s Semi-final
Dennis (Chips) Kelly on Pension
Uncle Gus Kelly
1. Spring 1938
2. Nuncs

Uncle Orville and Beatrice
Liturgy: Father, Fowl, and Daughter
Principal Parts: Orville Ely
About Beatrice
1. Beatrice Remembers Her Mother
2. Beatrice Trip
3. Beatrice: Feast of the Epiphany 1948
4. Beatrice: Essence & Accident
5. Beatrice in Surgery
6. Hic Jacet Beatrice

New Poems
Sister Kelly
Hoc Est Corpus
The Karma of Sgt. Bruce’s Grandmother (1939)

Sgt. Bruce: Born-again
Clairvoyance (birthday, 1985)

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