Praise for Praise Nothing


"In Praise Nothing, his first book, Joshua Robbins has written a supple poetry of moral reflection and social responsibility. With oracular rhetorical skills, dramatic narration, and the telling use of fine, sometimes minute, details garnered from observations of the everyday, he's pitched his poems to the registers of poets like T. R. Hummer and the early James Wright. Yet Robbins's use of dramatic situation and shards of narration remind me of American naturalism--the fiction of Theodore Dreiser and Stephen Crane. His people are ones so often ignored in general histories, and they provide him with the very bewilderments and frustrations, the meditative fractures in the seamless worlds of general economy and culture that inspire in him a sublime poetic tenderness for their existence. Robbins has achieved a well-crafted and worthy style, making himself distinctive for his deft use of traditional rhetorical structures, for the understated elegance in his strophes. Robbins has planted his flag on the serious side of the street." -- Garrett Hongo, author of Coral Road

"The burden of these poems is Faith, once held, now endlessly longed for and endlessly eluding. This is our late American moment, the moment of asphalt and strip malls, of identical subdivisions and office parks, of convenience stores and chain-link fences, junkies and missing girls and bodies coughed up in the shadows of warehouses. 'What consolation is there,' Robbins asks, 'between heaven and earth, / between here and after?' Nothing, it would seem, since 'surely nothing / is coming for to carry us home.' Like Larry Levis, Joshua Robbins stares straight into the sun and doesn't flinch, and yet, like Levis, he manages to find brief moments of beauty in terror and desolation. We are all the better for his hard truths. It's difficult to believe this is a first book, but, remarkably, it is. What a debut!" -- Susan Wood, author of The Book of Ten

"'I could,' Joshua Robbins writes, 'I could listen / to the trash can's / tipped-over plea' and filled with the presence and fullness of an unfallen world, one that outlasts all our frail and barely imagined dreams of heaven, 'I could listen' to 'the skewbald // hallelu of a dying lawn, / and praise nothing, / let daybreak's // brokenness catch / like glass shards in my throat / and not swallow.' Robbins's world is ours, excoriating us with its strangeness, its independence, beatifying us when we come to its calls. Here the glass is finely etched, finely broken off the diamond edges of these poems. 'How we burned then' in the light of this world, 'bright / as when we first believed.'" -- Jake Adam York, author of Persons Unknown