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Late in the Empire of Men
Christopher Kempf

Four Way
2017 • 92 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Poetry - American

$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-935536-87-1

“Kempf’s debut collection succeeds in familiar—if not quite traditional—ways.”—Stephanie Burt, New York Times

A bildungsroman that traces the path of America through its expanding empire to a future when "the idea of people/is over"

Late in the Empire of Men, Kempf’s powerful debut collection, reads the author’s coming-of-age in Ohio and California against the westward trajectory of American history, a trajectory he simultaneously situates in the larger context of empire—both political and anthropocentric—by looking back to Rome and Carthage and by glancing forward to a time when, as he writes in the poem “Dominion,” “the idea of people/is over.” Employing a baroque layering of image and allusion, patterned sonic texturing, and post-narrative self-consciousness, Kempf reveals how commonplace rhetorical practices—football’s valorization of a “warrior ethos,” for example—work to conscript young American men, in particular, into patterns of thought and behavior constitutive of an imperialist state.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“. . . Kempf is a master of seamless juxtaposition: almost every poem moves smoothly into and out of its immediate circumstances, weaving myth and history, literary reference and new events into its fabric. . . .”—Martha Collins, judge for the 2015 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry

From the Book:


Sometime after it is over, both
of us shut in our months of silence, you say
there is for you one
final kindness I can render. You let
the claw-foot fill. I fold
your clothes on the countertop & watch
you lower your ass to the water. & when
it has softened the hard
marble-sized cyst there, I square
my thumbs & because I know
to show affection this way I press
down draining the milky fluid. To groom
its mate, you say, the Southeast
Asian macaque combs
each inch of fur
with its teeth. The cleaner fish, found
mostly on reefs in the Pacific, affixes
itself to its host & for half its life
survives on the other's dust. You thrust
your red backside skyward
with its cyst. This—feel—
is where the tail was once, as when,
in the dark crucible of the human, homo
left the trees & traipsed
the paths of diaspora
toward the future. Followed
the horn of Africa. The pass
across the Strait & south
through California where you, also, walked
into my living room & whispered
it was finished. Followed
the Andes like a spine. You say
it is late. Like
it has always done the sun
is sliding again tonight to the Pacific. You lift
yourself to your feet & feel
behind you the nothing
I have left you, the vestige,
love, of what once
we were.


Winner of the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry (2015)

CHRISTOPHER KEMPF has published poetry in Best New Poets, Gettysburg Review, The New Republic, and Ploughshares, among other places. Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, as well as a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, he is the 2016–2017 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College and a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at the University of Chicago. He received his MFA from Cornell University.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:51:03 -0500