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James Haug

FIELD Poetry Series

Oberlin College Press
2018 • 80 pp. 6 x 9"

$16.95 Paperback, 978-0-9973355-2-1

Winner of the 2017 FIELD Poetry Prize

Oberlin College Press has championed the prose poem throughout its history, publishing such stellar examples as Russell Edson’s The Tunnel, Beckian Fritz Goldberg’s Egypt from Space and the first and final sections of Jeffrey Skinner’s 2017 prize-winner Chance Divine. James Haug’s Riverain is a masterful addition to that list, and a delight throughout. From the deadpan pastoral of “Cows Are a Good Idea” to quizzical fables like “Silent River,” from dreamlike meditations such as “First It Didn’t Sound Like” to tender parables like “Fraught with Sudden Appearances,” this collection is mysterious, hilarious, and utterly unpredictable.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Tate described Haug’s previous collection as “marvelous poems, ones that help us see what might have been or could have been, in a world full of light.” These new prose poems are equally revelatory, illuminating the natural world, contemporary culture, and New England metaphysics in witty and heartbreaking ways.

Reviews / Endorsements

“In James Haug’s Riverain “the fact of the matter [is] not a matter of fact.” These gorgeous prose poems are pinwheels viewed through prisms, flipbooks that transmute on each thumb-through, as in “The house was playing house as we played house inside it…” and “A house of driftwood is opposed to its nature. Unlike driftwood, houses prefer to stay put.” It’s astonishingly unmooring to encounter this brilliantly baffled brain: “My thought shifted in a big meaningful way, like a parking officer opening his ticket pad.””—Matthea Harvey

“In Riverain, James Haug maps a town that is both particular and many, just as the river within it manages to appear constant despite the perpetual flux of its body. In wonderful, understatedly fantastic prose, Haug lets each poem follow its train of thought with a calm assertiveness, pushing its logic forward like a talky Vasko Popa. These poems grabbed my brain warmly, and I was a glad visitor to their timeless small town America, where “It’s a fine thing to be helped, to climb a ladder during a full moon.””—Christopher DeWeese

Riverain gifts us an atlas of an unnamed valley situated around a curious river. By curious, I mean this river thinks, wonders, reverses course, and covers itself with snow, and yet is more reliable than any of the townspeople perambulating along its banks. Be they playful or profound, these poems surprise and delight. As one of Riverain’s narrators confides, “It was the end of our beliefs, the beginning of our wanderings.” Haug is a master at making the mundane magical and the mystical common. His plainspoken encounters with the denizens of the river valley never succumb to the burden of expectations, for they, like the river, are joyfully unpredictable and alive.”—William Waltz

JAMES HAUG’s previous poetry collections include Legend of the Recent Past, Walking Liberty, and The Stolen Car, as well as the chapbooks Scratch and Why I Like Chapbooks. He is a Visiting Lecturer in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, and serves as an editor for UMass Press’s Juniper Poetry Prize.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:56:52 -0500