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In Defense of Nothing
Selected Poems, 1987–2011
Peter Gizzi

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2014 • 244 pp. 6 1/8 x 8 1/4”

$18.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7564-7
$26.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7430-5

$14.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7431-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

As elegant as they are profound, these poems represent close to 25 years of work. In this substantial volume, Gizzi regales us with minimalist narrative, long lyrics and prose poems... [continued in Reviews below]”—Sonja James, The Journal

A new lyricism for the twenty-first century

Since his celebrated first book of poetry, Peter Gizzi has been hailed as one of the most significant and distinctive voices writing today. Gathered from over five collections, and representing close to twenty-five years of work, the poems in this generous selection strike a dynamic balance of honesty, emotion, intellectual depth and otherworldly resonance—in Gizzi’s work, poetry itself becomes a primary ground of human experience. Haunted, vibrant, and saturated with luminous detail, Gizzi’s poetry enlists the American vernacular in a magical and complex music. In Defense of Nothing is an immensely valuable introduction to the work of this extraordinary and singular poet. Check for the online reader’s companion at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“As elegant as they are profound, these poems represent close to 25 years of work. In this substantial volume, Gizzi regales us with minimalist narrative, long lyrics and prose poems which are studies in human perception. Gizzi’s central theme is how the human mind converts objects and lived experiences into poetry. For Gizzi, poetry itself is a field of human experience. … As a whole, Gizzi’s In Defense of Nothing affirms the notion that poetry is a form of salvation for those who are willing to do the hard work of turning perceptions into the ‘second tongue we call grammar’. It is a book worthy of all who love art and all who love to express themselves through poetry.”Sonja James, The Journal

“Gizzi’s poetry is ‘silly with clarity’, infused with a restless vernacular that can elevate the mundane while making the impossible tangible.”Publishers Weekly

In Defense of Nothing Selected Poems 1987-2011 splendidly champions Gizzi as a major force in the ever-expanding vastness of the poetry world. His well-earned spot as an integral influential force of our time is thus firmly staked out.”Patrick James Dunagan, Bookslut

“[T]his collection is a well-curated cross-section of a career that has always resisted categorization, borrowing from lyric, narrative, and avant-garde traditions. … Gizzi [is] a poet whose interest lies in articulating his experience of the world in all its disorienting glory.”Academy of American Poets

[A] significant retrospective of the work of poet Peter Gizzi. [It] samples nearly twenty-five years of his poems but finds a new order and a new context for them.”—Alex Dueben, Paris Review

“I have been enamored of Gizzi’s work for some time and to have such a generous and encompassing dose of his poems in one book is a true and inexhaustible gift. I love how these poems open and open. The result is a poetic line that disorients as well as recalibrates the reading toward other possibilities, the way, as Gizzi writes, ‘death and the imagination equals life itself.’”—Ocean Vuong, Poetry Foundation/Harriet Blog, “Reading List: December 2014”

“Gizzi’s poems lead you to think that building that flower would not only create something enjoyable but also make something useful. It will lead you somewhere unexpected. It could save the day.”—Tim Wood, Colorado Review

“Peter Gizzi’s poetry at once captures the deadening, and the standardization of our culture and wakes us up, makes us ‘silly with clarity.’ Through his poetry we become almost painfully attuned to the present. He can name with precision our medicated, mediated insensibility and then startle us out of anesthesia with the beauty of his singing. Gizzi can move from the ghostly, flickering edge of perceptibility to focused intensity at disorienting, Dickinsonian speed. His poetry is an example of how a poet’s total, tonal attention can disclose orders of sensation and meaning. His beautiful lines are full of deft archival allusion, and his influences range from Simonides to Schuyler, but those voices, those prosodies, aren’t ever decorative; Gizzi is gathering from the air a live tradition.”—Ben Lerner

“Peter Gizzi’s disturbing lyricism is like no other—the innermost whir of the daily curtain rising on outer catastrophe . . . we are ‘listening to a life / un-lived any other way”—unmistakably, as poetry.”—Adrienne Rich

From the Book:

So the bird’s in the hand
and now what?
The penny shiny
in the dark belly of mr. piggy.
The day dawns and dawns
and may be in trouble
of actually going anywhere.
Trees migrate secretly up-
ward. They might be saying
all we need to be here
if we would only stop
talking and listen up.
I love you, said the wood.
One sonic color into
the egregious public air.
Start from nothing and be-
long to it. The signal
and its noise -itsy,
-ancy, -oid.
So many strangers
alive in a larynx.
So much depends on X
so much more
on the book in your hand.
Start from nothing
and let the sound reach you.

from “The Outernationale”


Short-Listed for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2015)
Runner-up for the William Carlos Williams Award (2015)

PETER GIZZI is the author of Threshold Songs, The Outernationale, Some Values of Landscape and Weather, Artificial Heart, and Periplum. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Click here for author's website.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Fri, 9 Nov 2018 09:33:23 -0500