Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Received: Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett

Tarzan in KentuckyOkay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a poetry kind of guy. But Tarzan in Kentucky really isn't poetry...well, actually, it is poetry but not what I typically think of as poetry, if that makes any sense.

I know Judith Moffett as a science fiction writer. We worked together in 2014 to turn her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story, "Tiny Tango," into a Kindle ebook, which I detailed in a four-part series of blog posts.

But Judith (though she prefers "Judy") isn't your typical science fiction writer: She has received three Ingram Merrill Foundation grants in poetry, in 1976, 1980, and 1991. In 1998, she presented at the Nobel Symposium on Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose, and, most recently (2015), she presented at the James Merrill Symposium, held at Washington University in St. Louis. Indeed, not your typical sf writer.[1]

But getting back to Tarzan in Kentucky, from publisher David Robert Books: The cover photograph (taken by the author herself) is of Judy's farm in Kentucky, and from other pics I've seen, it really is that beautiful and lush. And obviously the ideal setting for writing.

But like I said, I'm not a poetry kind of guy, so I'm going to leave you with an excerpt of a review by Meredith Sue Willis on her Books for Readers blog; but do read the complete review:
Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett is a chewy, sinuous collection of poems by a living poet who went many years without writing poetry, but is—to our great benefit—writing again. Called "An effortless" virtuoso by James Merrill and "among the most accomplished of her generation" by Daniel Hoffman, Moffett writes brilliantly lucid everyday language contained—and freed—by tight forms like tercets and sonnets. You only notice the form if you are looking—you feel the emotion, see the picture, hear the voice and the story. The forms are certainly there, though, giving her poems a musculature that makes much of the free verse we are used to seem flaccid.

...a number of [the poems] are about her farm, and there is a long section called "Grief" in which she writes about the aftermath of her husband's death. The poet speaks to herself in one called "Broken Couplet":
Solutions, none. No cures.
This task alone is yours:

to make each day a quest
for getting through it best

when "best" cannot mean "well..."
You feel here what rhyme is about: an arbitrary way of linking things that then makes meaning of what started out as arbitrary.

Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems is available in print form only from your bookstore of choice...even if, like me, you're not a poetry kind of person.


1. You can read more of Judy's awards, honors, and recognitions on her Wikipedia entry.


  1. Marty, you are the most generous guy I know. Thank you so much for posting this. Just to set the record straight, though, TARZAN IN KENTUCKY really IS poetry! Just ask the publisher. David Robert Books (WordTech Communications) doesn't publish anything else!

  2. Dear Judy,

    Yes, Tarzan in Kentucky is indeed poetry. But you know what I mean (I hope); I was implying that it's not the typical off-the-shelf poetry book. And I hope everyone who reads this blog snags a copy for their own reading pleasure.

    - martyh