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The Baboons of Hada

Eric Ormsby

The Baboons of Hada by Eric Ormsby
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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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(Pub. May 2011)
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  • I like the way the rooster lifts his feet,
    So jauntily exact,
    Then droops one springy yellow claw aloft
    Just like a tailor gathering up a pleat.
    And then there are those small surprising lilts,
    Both rollicking and staid,
    That grace his bishop’s gait,
    Like a waltzer on a pair of supple stilts
    Or a Russian on parade.

                                                        from ‘Rooster’
    The Baboons of Hada introduces thirty years of Eric Ormsby’s precise and generous poetry. Opening with an exuberant bestiary of spiders and starfish, penguins, snakes and contemplative baboons, the collection moves on to explore a world of intricate wonders and memories: the grandeur of noses, the mayonnaise tornado whipped up by a kitchen whisk, the gossip gravediggers whisper to the dead. An American childhood and kinships are evoked with loving particularity, alongside a flamboyant caliph, Lazarus and his disenchanted wife, and the great medieval Arab poet al-Mutanabbi writing in exile lines that reverberate across ‘all the empty places’ of the world.

    Cover image Engraving on paper of real and fantastic animals (detail), Florence c. 1460-70. Copyright © The Trustees of the British Museum


    After Becquer
    Our Spiders
    Conch Shell
    Watchdog and Rooster
    Cradle-Song of the Emperor Penguins
    The Egyptian Vulture
    Garter Snake
    The Baboons of Hada
    Skunk Cabbage
    Live Oak, with Bromeliads

    The Crossing
    Getting Ready for the Night
    The Suitors of my Grandmother’s Youth
    Two Views of My Grandfather’s Courting Letters
    Adages of a Grandmother
    Hand-Painted China
    Finding a Portrait of the Rugby Colonists, My Ancestors
    Among Them
    A Freshly Whitewashed Room
    My Mother in Old Age
    Childhood House
    Dicie Fletcher
    The Jewel Box

    For a Modest God
    What the Snow Was Not
    Salle des Martyrs
    Mutanabbi in Exile
    The Caliph
    Lazarus in Skins
    Forgetful Lazarus
    Lazarus and Basements
    Lazarus Listens
    Mrs Lazarus
    Gravediggers’ April
    Another Thing
    Conquests of Childhood
    Childhood Pieties
    The Song of the Whisk
    Episode with a Potato

    Bavarian Shrine
    Railyard in Winter
    Florida Bay
    Daybreak at the Straits
    A Salt Marsh near Truro
    Nova Scotia
    Gazing at Waves
    An Epistle from Rice Point
    An Oak Skinned by Lightning
    The Public Gardens



    Eric Ormsby was born in Atlanta, Georgia. A distinguished scholar in the field of Islamic thought, he received a doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and taught at McGill University, Montreal for twenty years, where from 1996 he was Professor and Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies. In ... read more
    'His poems afford the rare pleasure of listening to a polished yet deeply humane sensibility respond, in language of exhilarating verve, to whatever it seizes on or despairs of'
    The New Criterion 
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