Perfectbound paperback, ISBN: 978-0-9888279-2-9, 160 pgs., $15.95
Critically-acclaimed American poet Eric Greinke has selected 109 of his best poems for this extensive collection. The poems date from 1969 through 2012, and include thirteen new poems and his prize-winning long poems For The Living Dead and Beyond Our Control (with Hugh Fox). The poems were originally published in a wide variety of top literary magazines such as Abraxas, The New York Quarterly, the California Quarterly, The South Carolina Review and the Paterson Literary Review. Greinke’s poetry has been praised for its thought-provoking, multi-leveled, often dreamlike imagery and his creative, stylistic range. Although he employs several divergent compositional processes, his work is sustained by a distinctive and recognizable voice. His tones range from ironically humorous to elegiac, sometimes in the same poem. Many poems, such as Flood Tide, April and Persona, show a strong lyrical presence. New poems such as the award-winning Shooting Lessons, exhibit Greinke’s unique use of lyric devices within an autobiographical narrative.
“Greinke seamlessly weaves together the vibrance of the naturalist with the unsettling images of dream worlds and mimes. His collection of work from more than four decades establishes him as an accomplished poet, seeing both worlds seen and unseen.”
– David Wheeler, PoetsWest
“I highly recommend Greinke’s new collection of deceptively simple poems that will lead seeking, perceptive readers to the edge of a dream, perhaps, to a new level of consciousness.” – Ann Wehrman, Poetry Now
“Greinke is a spacious poet of Soul. There is an easy flow, an unstrained lucidity, a surreal exuberance about his poetry. The marvel of Greinke is the ‘open window’ he has sustained throughout a long career of letters. Let us revere this great man of letters in lionlike Age; he gives us so much.” – Charles Thompson, Various Artists (U.K.)
“Each poem is a cathedral of actuality, of thought, of inspiration. He has the rare talent to walk with our environment, to bring us a profound lesson that nature often has if we listen to the ice crystals or growing green. He takes our hand and shows us what we have forgotten to look at.” -Irene Koronas, Boston Area Poetry Scene
“Greinke writes across a rather broad spectrum. He knows nature intimately, and he’s not afraid to let his imagination float and flutter and soar. That boldness takes a certain kind of courage. His lines are written with vigor and thought, a pretty potent combination.”
– John Berbrich, Barbaric Yawp
“One of the most effective poets on the scene, a master word/idea worker who deserves the strongest possible lauds.” –The Small Press Review
“Greinke brings us on a journey through his life beginning with a short poem, Fur Found Rhythm, written in 1969 to the beautifully sad Flood Tide, written in 2012. Greinke writes not for awards but because he is a poet, it is what he does, and we are better for it.” -G Emil Reutter, Fox Chase Review
“There’s a strong vein of surrealism in this collection. This species of surrealism goes beyond dreams to nightmare, that nightmare of the collective consciousness that hovers over us all, that haunts our waking hours and crushes us under its weight.” -Arnold Skemer, ZYX 65
“The poems of Eric Greinke, like Sandburg’s fog, “come on little cat feet”—observe, contemplate, meditate, accept, and move on. They gather momentum like a mighty wind, and they are not soon forgotten. Reading this deep and thoughtful book is akin to skating on a pristine sheet of ice; the top layer is still and serene, but the poet is mindful of the cracks beneath the surface. With undercurrents that flow in numerous directions, a Greinke poem is more ambitious than its brevity would imply, while maintaining an independent streak and placid cool. Its undertones are vaguely political, sexual, and religious, but the poems are not about politics, sex, or religion. Greinke gives weight to the power of memory, and there is certainly a nostalgic feel to some of the poems, but he also pays homage to the here-and-now and the future. The language is oddly violent and, simultaneously, benign. The poems are suffused with sagacity and, yet, the poet approaches all things with a fresh and earnest ponder. The poems feel somehow safe; yet they take the type of astounding risks that poets ought to take. The tone is reflective and kindly, with delightful bouts of unique wordplay (“laugh-burlap-sourcream-mantelpiece body”) and sly humor appearing in unexpected places (“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen//Nobody knows my monthly electric bill”). Through unadorned vernacular, the poet teaches us that there can be much depth in simplicity and, simply stated, Eric Greinke’s voice is a calming balm with an off-beat bent.
“In terms of form, Eric Greinke carves an eclectic niche; like snowflakes, no two poems are exactly alike. Not only do these selected poems have a wide wingspan of years (from 1969-2012), but they also bridge the unlikely gap between the hypnagogic and the concrete world of trees, dead dogs on highways, clocks, and loss. The poet recognizes those connections and somehow reconciles their differences. Greinke is at ease in many genres, which reside comfortably alongside each other—from poetry of the marvelous in the fine tradition of Rimbaud and Neruda, to the more traditional poems of Robert Frost. He is adept at the short, introspective prose poem which merges the surreal with the linear, no small feat. He is every bit the gentle, rugged poet of heart and humanity as Gary Snyder—and sometimes he just tells a darn good yarn, with warmth and intensity, and draws you right in.
“Greinke’s biggest strength is his mixed bag of styles. In “Black Milk,” the poet’s couplets contain mismatched phrases that hint at things and throw an interesting curve, while utilizing enough connective associations to make the lines sound plausible. He then easily transitions to a poem that uses plainspoken parlance: “Wild Strawberries” is, arguably, as pithy and profound as William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow,” beginning with a simple image evoked from childhood, and ending with a pointed statement about the all-too-fleeting passage of time.
“Greinke plants seeds liberally throughout these poems (seeds of thought, action, and interaction), and, as he predicts, they do grow. When he’s not dabbling in the surrealistic arts, he becomes the ultimate nature poet, not just as someone who admires the gifts of Mother Nature, but who propels personification to transcendental heights. His personal communes with wildlife encompass its often cruel realities, but what is even more distinctive in these particular poems is the way he links the hierarchy of the animal kingdom to human nature.
“In poems such as “Black Flies,” the flies are seen as an “eternal onslaught,” conjuring biblical plague; while, in “Dilemma,” the hawk is pitted against the sparrow, with the poet (Man) as the final arbiter of their fates. And, in “The Accident,” Man’s brutal impulses are brought to the fore, and are nothing less than jarring. Yet, Greinke is no messenger of doomsday; it is clear that the lovely universal landscape is where he chooses to spend most of his leisure hours. But despite his tendency towards the magical, he is, at heart, a realist.”
-Cindy Hochman, The Pedestal Magazine
“Containing a selection of poems spanning five decades, Eric Greinke’s new book, For the Living Dead is a sort of “greatest hits” collection chosen by the poet himself. Across the years, his work embraces many of the same themes, concerns and styles, a playful but serious meditation on the universe around us, both the natural and supernatural.
“Greinke writes in deceptively simple language, like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. Like Frost, too, he has a real feel for the woods and the water, only set in Michigan, not New England. There are poems about storms (“After the Ice Storm,” “Cape May Storm,” “Summer Storm”), about time and the seasons (“The Lake in Winter,” “April,” “May,” “October,” “Our House”), and haiku-like images of nature abound in such poems as “Drifts,” “Flotsam,” “Leelanau Fire,” “The Dark Roofs.” He vividly shows us what is.
“Yet for all the accurately observed natural details, there is also a flight into the illogic of dreams and what might be called the “supernatural.” Take the title poem, for instance, an eight-page poem written in 2007. Beginning in a familiar picture of solitude, a man in nature, it quickly veers into a surreal, post-apocalyptic story of zombies and robots.
“For my money, Greinke is at the top of his game when he is describing a scene, telling a story whose implications do not need to be spelled out; they throb with a kind of numinous significance lurking below the story he tells, the situation he describes. Poems like “The Accident” (1972) exemplify this, but it is true especially of some of his more recent work: “My Father’s Job,” in which the car factory is shown as a sort of prison, and his father’s existence, a life sentence; “Shooting Lessons,” in which a boy accidentally kills his brother with his father’s shotgun and is never the same; “There and Back,” a story about being assaulted at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago by a group of drunken teenagers. ‘It would never be easy to distinguish/our friends from our enemies again.’” -Charles Rammelkamp, Chamber Four
“There is a Blakeian energy to these poems that pulses through the shorter ones in particular – in true Beat tradition, the senses are rhapsodic even at their most cataclysmic.
“Greinke believes in endings, as in “Haunted Windows”: ‘We cry for wings/Even as wings approach’, or the quietly resonant ‘We reserve our opinions/Our private parking spaces’ that end ‘Spaces.’
“Politics are a motive force. There is an eyewitness thrill to ‘There & Back’, a poem about the 1968 Democratic Convention, a disillusionment in its ending, (the young poet and friends were savagely attacked by their peers): ‘All the way home I digested the sour/truth. It would never be easy to distinguish/our friends from our enemies again.’
“The work has wide geographic reach. The least rhetorical poems enchant me. Greinke’s a great storyteller, an implicit element central to ‘Shooting Lessons’, and ‘The Accident’, among others. The use of dialogue in these poems makes me wish for more.”
-Aileen La Tourette, The Journal (U.K.)
“For the Living Dead is a great book if you are looking for something simple but thought-provoking and emotional. The poet does an excellent job at leaving the reader on edge, and he always leaves the reader thinking at the end of each poem. Eric Greinke’s collection of poems written throughout four decades of his writing career left me wanting more.” – Mary Kate DeJardin, The Stoneboat Literary Journal
“…Greinke’s tone is unpretentious, his usual diction far from rarefied. (Also, his occasional penchant for too-easy rhymes undercut me appreciation for his skill, the understated restraint that his better pieces display.) Anyway, the going can seem easy, perhaps easier that it should go. I blazed through the first ten pages, felling brief poems like saplings, neglecting to take notes, until I found myself at “The Forest,” able to understand the surface of the poem, able to appreciate that it could also function as a parable, but confronted by a mystical opacity that stymied rational analysis. So I put down my axe, my arrogant presumption that “Fine. I know what this one’s about. And this one. And this one.” And I moved deeper into the trees. And I willingly got lost.” -John F. Buckley, Arcadia
Now available in ebook