Having just finished Decanting, I’m casting about for a word to describe Stuart Friebert’s voice. Immense? Erudite? Lyrical? Nothing I can come up with seems nearly adequate. I suspect the Germans have one of those huge, freight-train-long words for a poet who manages to cram so much of the world into his lines. His tonal registers are vast. His darkest poems are his funniest. His funniest poems are his darkest. The broken music of World War II, the death camps, and the unquenchable human spirit, burn in the background. Would you please just read “A Foot Off the Bottom,” one of the finest poems I know? In Friebert’s lines old Europe and new America carry on their lovers’ quarrel. I have heard Bach performed on the Domorgeln at the Salzburg cathedral. I have heard Bach performed on a harmonica by a campfire in Ohio. I don’t know how he does it, but Stuart Friebert makes a music that contains both of these worlds. He is a master.
—George Bilgere, author of Haywire, The White Museum, and Imperial
From an imaginative master and influential teacher, a lifetime of poetry rooted in history and the natural world and brimming with life and exuberant expression. Friebert inspires creativity. Decanting belongs in every library.
—Marilyn Johnson, author of Lives in Ruins, This Book Is Overdue!, and The Dead Beat
About the Author
Born in Wisconsin, Stuart Friebert spent an undergraduate year in Germany as one of the first U.S. exchange students after World War II (1949-50), after which he finished a Ph.D. (1957) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in German Language & Literature. He began teaching at Mt. Holyoke College, subsequently at Harvard University, until settling at Oberlin College in 1961, where, with help from colleagues, he founded Oberlin’s Creative Writing Program, which he directed until retiring. Along the way, with colleagues, he co-founded Field Magazine, later the Field Translation Series and Oberlin College Press.
Among the fourteen books of poems he’s published, Funeral Pie co-won the Four Way Book Award in 1997; and Floating Heart (Pinyon Publishing) won the Ohioana 2015 Poetry Award. In addition, he’s published ten volumes of translations—most recently Puppets in the Wind: Selected Poems of Karl Krolow (Bitter Oleander Press, 2014), Be Quiet: Selected and Selected Poems by Kuno Raeber (Tiger Bark Press, 2015), and Watch Out: Selected Poems of Kuno Raeber (Lost Horse Press, 2016). He has also published a number of stories and memoir-pieces, collected in a volume entitled The Language of the Enemy, published by Black Mountain Press.
Rocks rising in one place, sinking in another,
I read. Mostly quietly, inoffensively, almost
monotonously. Lots of history is as well, until
it’s not of course. What are we to do, who
liked to eat and drink in peace, grass just
growing, flowers blooming? All seems quite
different now. We breathe more heavily, our
whole body working away, hands can’t stop
waving, memories cropping up unaccountably.
Remember when we had our worst arguments
at recess, but quickly turned playful as puppies
in the snow, while our lower back goes out now
listening to TV news? Boiling over’s not an option,
scrapes and bruises go septic, the doorbell rings,
an ambulance gurneys you off, doubts about
truths fester, the IV nurse smiling that grim way?