LIKE A SEA: WINNER OF THE IOWA POETRY PRIZE
CHOSEN BY COLDFRONT AS THE BEST FIRST BOOK OF 2010
“On the shore between tragedy and comedy, the evocative and broken language of Like a Sea has the energy of someone trying to sing a hundred things at once and the sorrow of song vanishing as it’s made. Never still, each line surges and bulges beyond the decorums of conventional grammar, and even the quiet passages have a dynamic, rambunctious originality. This book is refreshing as wave-crash and as forceful as undertow.”—Dean Young
“The radical new idiom and sleights of logic in Samuel Amadon’s Like a Sea suggest a legacy of poetic innovators as disparate as Gertrude Stein and John Berryman, while its commitment to following the mind’s foul work and hard play through the world it finds itself in—where ‘everything is a surface passing’—is boldly, passionately traditional. The mind in question happens to be as quirky, intelligent, wise, hopeful, and hilarious as they come, and Like a Sea is a shining example of what a mind like that can do when it steers true to itself and its calling. Amadon’s is among the most audacious, memorable, and uniquely beautiful debuts in recent memory.”—Timothy Donnelly, author, The Cloud Corporation
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from Marina Read Weiss in BOSTON REVIEW
Equipped with simple diction and fidgety syntax, Amadon presents a world refracted through distracted consciousness, recalling Wittgenstein’s precept that “Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it.” Paradoxically, Amadon achieves such showing through telling. It’s a polyvocal, colloquial poetics, and the collection runs alternately casual, wry, sharp, tender, metaphysical: “a window I will open now // that it’s safe to say this has been a full morning / of staring through the half-reflection of my face // figuring out how it would sound / to understand every word you were saying.” The reader shares the half-reflection, the sound, and finds herself parsing her own notions of speaker, poet, and reader.
from P.J. Gallo in COLDFRONT
Amadon has made the distinct decision to avoid clear-cut, nostalgic adventures in aphorism. In avoiding making perfect sense in perfect syntactic units, the big emotions, the ones that make us cry or punch people in bars, have been set aside. By forgoing manipulation of the big emotions in favor of initiating nervous laughter or confusion, Amadon avoids simplification and approaches a portrait that seems much closer to the emotional and intellectual environment in which we–always a little claustrophobic and scatterbrained–live our lives.
from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (Starred Review)
Expert technique, small words, and bitter moods bring Amadon’s aims close to those of Graham Foust, or even to Robert Creeley. If the most personal poems seem paradoxically abstract, the poems about places stand out, in their forbidding emotions and in their serious interest in geography, in what gets built—and what gets allowed to decay: “this is what we have/ chosen, to value this/ looks like we have chosen before.”
from James Reiss in RAIN TAXI
Many first poetry books are epigonic, but Amadon steps beyond his influences with a Connecticut Yankee’s inventiveness. He calls one poem about a talkative hair cutter “The Barber’s Fingers Move October,” and devises a Rube Goldberg image, “Sometimes listening takes / stealing a bus.” He cooks up trademark epigrams such as “the only ears that can ever hear one’s secrets are one’s own,” and formulates a sphinx’s riddle whose second line sounds all the more patent-worthy because of its resonant iambs: “How do we find a thing which // isn’t concerned enough with us to hide?” This is certainly a debut of note.
from Joe Atkins in TARPAULIN SKY
To get an idea of what a non-flarf, non-conceptual version of appropriation looks like, one need go no further than Samuel Amadon’s Like A Sea. The collection has a wide range of samplings sprinkled across the lines, and, since we’re such big fans of the list, here they are in all their illumination: J.D. Salinger, Pound, Walter Benjamin, Jane Kenyon, Robert Lowell, Eugenio Montale, Joris-Karl Huysmans, EA Robinson, Primo Levi, Beckett, Jackson Mac Low’s diastic reading process, Eugene O’Neil, Berryman, an appropriation of Olson appropriating Norbert Wiener, and last but not least Wikipedia. More than just a recounting of the notes, the above list provides the what of the book, it’s primary apparatus.