Out of the Woods


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Thomas Bolt; Foreword by James Merrill

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The winning volume in the 1988 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Out of the Woods by Thomas Bolt. As James Merrill, distinguished poet and judge of the competition, has said: "Here is an up-to-date pastoral: wrecked cars, glades of debris, polluted streams, all gravely held in Thomas Bolt's unflinching gaze. 'I had found,' he writes, 'the secret center of America.' Given this wealth of evidence, its bleakness and sparkle, we can almost bring ourselves to believe him." 
A Hill in Virginia
In this rude world
Memory pertains
In bald things,
Of promises skipped over, violence
Or accidents of kissing.
Read within the deep patina
Of the old stump
Of a shainsawed black walnut
Its circular
History from sex to ruin;
Look where
Cracked and spattered chunks of cold quartz
Stuck in mud
Glitter up from a dull hill.
Downhill, the wrecked car:
A punched in windshield
Sags whole,
An afterimage of collision,
Brilliant with sky.

Thomas Bolt was born in Washington, D.C., in 1959 and grew up in Washington and Virginia. A graduate of Glaydin School near Leesburg, Virginia, Bolt received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in 1982. That same year, Bolt's poems and etchings were published in a limited edition volume titled Land, which has been acquired by several rare book collections in the United States. His etchings were commissioned as posters for the first four PEN/Faulkner Awards for Fiction. He now lives in New York City, where he writes art criticism.

"The Yale Series of Younger Poets remains the most prestigious [of poetry contests]."—Library Journal Thomas Bolt's Out of the Woods, the winning volume in the 1988 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, was selected from among 625 entries in this annual competition.  The author describes his poetry in the following way:  "Like any poems, these are attempts to make ideas and feelings tangible. They follow a metaphorical landscape—of variously social, historical, emotional, and individual situations—as if it were a real landscape. While the poems have, as a kind of face value, a more or less literal and concrete surface, the most important thing for a reader to know about them is that they are neither observed nor remembered but made up—and consequently every detail has purpose. The description exists, not for its own sake, but as the method of metaphor. Nature in these poems is never a setting. "The metaphors are specific but given a life of their own somewhere off to the side, like a building just outside the frame of exposure which casts its shadow through a photograph. In a poem like '1971 Pontiac LeMans,' whether the reader sees only a car, or the car as a figure for the human body, or car-and-body as vehicle and manifestation of autonomy, the effect should be about the same. These poems are built for definite meanings but do not insist on a direct or uniform apprehension of them. Sometimes the best, first, effect is oblique and immediate." 

"Bolt writes with a deadly, stiletto-sharp focus and with a passion that is not only believable, but enticing and contagious."—Booklist

"A distinguished addition to a most distinguished series."—Library Journal

"Bolt handles his subject matter with admirable attention to detail and precision of language; he ranges easily from adjective-replete accounts to stark, minimalist statements."—Publishers Weekly

"The poetry of Thomas Bolt strikes an evocative note for those who consider the economic achievements of science to be of uncertain benefit."—Roger Fussa, University Journal

"[This] is a startlingly evocative pastoral, but one of a throw-away America. . . . From the cover photo's ribbony railroad ties still hanging after a trestle collapse in the Cascades Bolt sets his tone, supports it magnificently, eloquently, as a modern day Frost stopping by an apocalyptic woods."—J. T. H., Kliatt

"It's quite apparent . . . that Bolt brings entire sincerity to each of these poems."—Poetry

ISBN: 9780300044683
Publication Date: September 10, 1989
80 pages, 5 1/2 x 9
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