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What the Right Hand Knows
Tom Healy

Stahlecker Selections

Four Way
2009 • 72 pp. 6 x 9"

$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-884800-95-5

"Laconic yet passionate and sparely personal, the poems in this first book set urbanity and unfolding tragedy in common words and slow-moving, short lines. Healy's finest moments make him spare, elegiac and wry all at the same time: 'What do we do when we hate our bodies?/ A good coat helps.' ..."—Publishers Weekly

Healy’s sensual, urgent debut collection moves from farmyard to cityscape as it depicts a teetering, asymmetric world. A speaker “deaf in one ear” ponders that “the Moon’s dark side / has no sound”; a mother and child finally “take the journey they’d talked about” but get only “a Sunday drive on Tuesday,” a near-miss “tracing circumferences.” Healy’s assured rhythms and measured stresses ballast the uncertainty of social relationships and bodily suffering. He seeks past the self for ways to act: “the task is to remember / the troubled blood of others, // and not remember // the bliss of deeper waters.” This book of “salt and work,” of surviving ourselves, our illnesses, and our language, tenderly explores the unsaid and under-the-surface of the separate lives we live together: “we sat // in the rocking chairs / of each other’s / moods.” An intimate, intelligent, and lively debut.

Reviews / Endorsements

“…What the Right Hand Knows [by] Tom Healy is a first book poet who has a clear and urgent style, a straightforward ownership of his emphatically lyrical choices. … [T]hese are poems about being off-beam, asymmetrical, off-balance in a deaf ear, the left and right hand at odds in their knowledge, the world tipped one way, then another. Carol Muske-Dukes, The Huffington Post

“A wave of spontaneous greeting and implacable fluid motion breaks over these remarkable poems. Stirring up the ironic riptides of Stevie Smith, Vergilian /Georgics /and Catullus, the wave is revelation: ‘the necessities of rescue and surrender.’ If ‘Pindar said there’d be horses in heaven,’ Tom Healy imagines a flawed paradise here on earth—each poem an earthy lyrical miracle— ‘our salt and work—/ the stubborn questions/ we endlessly/ give names to.’ /What the Right Hand Knows/ is, like Giotto’s, a perfect circle, ‘the shape of astonishment.’ This is an utterly brilliant and uncommon first book, a voice like no other.”Carol Muske-Dukes

“The electric immediacy of these poems is an assault on silence, a gunshot fired across the bow of genteel decorous well-mannered lying and silence. At times, but seldom, they give us something sharp-edged but more comfortable (e.g., a portrait of Lauren Bacall choosing fruit). I love how everything here ‘haunts us with choice.’ This is a superb book.”Frank Bidart


Runner-up for the Lambda Finalist in Poetry (2009)

TOM HEALY's poems and essays have appeared in BOMB, the Yale Review, Paris Review, Tin House, Salmagundi and other journals. He studied at Harvard and Columbia. He lives in New York City and Miami.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:03:13 -0500