The Gates of the Elect Kingdom

The Gates of the Elect Kingdom

Winner of the 1996 Iowa Poetry Prize



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1997
98 pp
Paper: 
$16.00
0877455813

“For the many who have wanted to know more about the moral and intellectual roots of the Hoadeite movement, and, too, its complex social development, this extended lyrical narrative will prove to be a godsend. John Wood is a poet of well-known and accomplished grace; now he demonstrates his considerable ability as a chronicler of our American prairie past. Others have examined the Hoadeite world with scholarly care; Wood evokes the majesty of this millenarian movement—and in so doing offers an extraordinary instance of the poet as inspired cultural and religious historian.”—Robert Coles

“In this magisterial poem, John Wood places Wilhelm Johannes Hoade squarely in the intellectual ferment epitomized by Joseph Strickland, Simon Suggs, Hosea Biglow, and other antebellum thinkers. Only rarely is history written this way.”—John R. Stilgoe

The four parts of this highly accomplished collection showcase the different facets and wide breadth of John Wood's poetic talent. Displayed here are his ability to sustain a sequence, his adeptness with lyricism and the short form, and his sensuous feeling for this life and the life of the past.

In regard to the latter, Wood begins the book with his poetic account of the amazing life and adventures of the vigorous American utopianist Wilhelm Johannes Hoade. Wood's account reads like a novel as he weaves a fictional narrative out of lyric poetry, a narrative that is finally convincing and true in spite of its obvious impossibility.

The second section, “Homage to Dafydd ap Gwilym,” is a free but artistically faithful translation after some of the medieval Welsh poet's major poems, arranged in a way to suggest in a natural/supernatural mode his remarkable character and biography. The third part is a group of finely tuned, mostly lyric poems dealing with family, friends, and intellectual concerns; the fourth is a group of contemporary and historical “revelations,” quite striking in scope and variety. All combine to form a dazzling whole.

Excerpt: 

The History Of The Kiss

The lips long to complete
the temptations of the eye.
The unravelings of arousal
lie there, and are
the eye's rousings.
They make bread of girls
and bread of boys.

We'd eat the very paint of Spring,
break teeth on Apollo's loins
were guards not there
to marshall all our lusts
and hold us back.

And so we lie together quietly
in the futility of language,
trying to shape a logic
to our presences, those conjunctions
of desire and need, those
pilgrimages of the lips,
progresses whereby we learn
the lexicon of our love,
whereby we solve
the syllogisms of the heart.

And this
is the history
of the kiss.