A Suite of Dances

Mark Weiss


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Shearsman Books
13 August 2021
ISBN: 9781848617476
204 pages

From the publisher

“Pound once observed ‘that music begins to atrophy when it gets too far from the dance, that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.’ In A Suite of Dances, Mark Weiss brings poetry and the dance back together in intricate, delightful measures. The rhythms and tone of these sly, sinuous poems jolt the reader awake with unexpected, offbeat aphorisms, jokes, and moves of improvisatory nimbleness and agile grace that always stick the landing.

When I was a boy I’d run
to shining seas
and back again.
The multiple displacements.
What do you say to cosmetic innocence?

These lines from the first section, ‘Ghost Dance,’ set the tone for what follows, finding ever inventive ways to answer the question of the fate of innocence. Weiss lovingly revives the antiphonal swing of the old masters with a lively gusto. These lines, from the closing section, ‘On Wings of Song,’ would have made Ben Jonson proud:

She leapt, that limpid lepidopterist,
Upon her wingèd prey,
And of the twain the fleeter were
I doubt that one could say,
For both upon the trembling breeze
Did silent float away.

Pulsing with wit, bravado, vulgarity, pathos, whimsy, and replete with that rarest of pleasures in contemporary poetry: the sheer surge of song, these poems ripple with a music that moves freely through the range of English lyric. The bass note of melancholy anchors them in a tradition of reflective loss and revival that is, finally, reaffirming, since, as Williams put it, ‘we know nothing and can know nothing/but/the dance.’”
—Patrick Pritchett