Richard Lemm’s new poetry collection, Jeopardy, opens with visits to Tasmania and Egypt. He takes readers to the infamous penal colony on the Tasman Peninsula, then imagines an alternate history in which convicts were sent to Prince Edward Island. Lemm explores his pre- and post-Revolution experiences teaching Egyptian students and encountering a great civilization wrestling with cross-currents of modernity and tradition. His poetic gaze then turns to the struggle of a couple living the ordeal of severe anorexia and the quest for healing.
In “The Sacred and the Profane” poems, he conjures myths and journeys —ancient and modern—to illuminate how we choose to live in the present: a Jewish surgeon’s pilgrimage to Assisi; Adam and Eve’s reflections on their fateful Edenic choice; the poet’s grandfather trading farm clothes for an army uniform and war in the Philippines; a resurrected L. M. Montgomery in a gift shop, surrounded by Anne of Green Gables merchandise. In the final section, Lemm evokes, with wit and urgency, our ecological reality and environmental crises: “The future is forever / now, is headlines scrolling / at glacial melt and animated pixel / speed into amnesia. While the Darwins / of tomorrow and their painstaking facts / watch from the crow’s nests, swaying above / our faith in charts, invincible hulls.”
Other poets have written of Lemm’s “passionate engagement with human nature, including his own,” of how he “masterfully blends his narrative poetic style with lyrical sweeps across time and space,” and of his “wit, his spilling love of life and his poetic magnetism.”
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