Starred Review of LOVE IN THE LAST DAYS in Publishers Weekly
Philip Levine recommends D. Nurkse’s A Night in Brooklyn: “After I read D. Nurkse’s last collection of poems, The Border Kingdom, I told myself there was no one in the U.S. who could write a better book. Well I was wrong, there was a poet who could and recently did publish a better book, the same D. Nurkse. A Night in Brooklyn, his newest collection, finds him on home territory—he was for a time the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn—he should be the laureate of the Western Hemisphere. He possesses the ability to employ the language of our American streets, shops, bars, factories, and any place else and construct truly lyrical poems, sometimes of love, sometimes of anger. He can be wonderfully large and inclusive: “In these long slant-lit streets, she says, / you will find factories that once made shoehorns, / waffle irons, or pearl cuff links and store front churches / where voices adored the living God while tambourines / clashed a little behind the beat…” from “Twilight in Canarsie,” which finally gets the poem it deserves. The voice behind these poems is certainly Nurkse’s, but more often than not I feel it’s that deepest voice we hear rarely if ever and then only in poems, the voice of those closest to us, those we love and care for and who—because they are human—remain mysteries: “All my life I have been dying, of hope and self-pity, / and an unknown force has been knitting me back together.” No one is writing more potently than this.” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
The poet D. Nurkse’s New York is worlds away from gentrification.
In “A Night in Brooklyn” (Knopf, $26), he stacks images from the borough’s farther reaches upon ghosts conjured from its past: Throop (Avenue) under the El, Ebbets Field, night truckers, lovers winding into each other from Greenpoint to Canarsie. He strays to “the rain-streaked avenues of central Queens” in one poem and abroad in several others. But Mr. Nurkse, who was Brooklyn’s poet laureate from 1996 to 2002, delivers the portrait his title would seem to promise.
These are not easy poems, but they don’t play tricks on the reader, either. Stay with one, and it will unfold into a meditation on birth, death, longing or loneliness. And even a casual tour through this short collection returns delights — scenes like: “At the border of Bensonhurst/a nun dragged a balky collie/on a retractable leash.”
‘A Night in Brooklyn,’ by D. Nurkse
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city —
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for daybreak
and we closed our eyes
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.
Poem excerpted from “A Night in Brooklyn” (Knopf, 2012)
--The New York Times
Voices over Water
The two most impressive books of poetry I've read this year are by D. Nurkse (CB Editions)--an ambitious saga (broken into fragments) of emigration and re-settling--and by Alice Oswald...
--Andrew Motion, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement, UK, Dec. 2, 2011