David Axelrod’s new collection of poems, Folly, is perhaps his most personal, vivid and honest work to date. Taking Desderius Erasmus as his noble guide, Axelrod follows the road of folly, error and ignorance that constitute our common life. Along the way we meet Dostoyevsky while Nordic skiing, get a haircut, watch a divorced woman and her daughter fly kites, hold a crippled bird in our hands, consider the virtue of shovels and the perversity of old chainsaws, cross a river with Basho, and blow up an oven heating bagels. Striking notes of real praise alongside bewilderment, this new collection from the author of What Next Old Knife?, reminds us over and over of our privilege and reverence for this existence and our “dumb luck.”
“Dumbfounded by the improbability of being,” the figure of the fool on his or her joyous and hapless journey through life can be associated with any number of anti-heroes: Dionysus, Don Quixote, Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, the king’s jester who is both clownish and wise. In Folly, David Axelrod’s marvelous new book of poems, the fool at mid-life speaks of the human enterprise with mockery and tenderness, making us both laugh out loud and, in turn, see ourselves more truly. His haplessness links us to earth. His madness links us to the divine.
The poems in David Axelrod’s Folly chart the wild landscapes of eastern Oregon, where the poet has shoveled out a life in the shadow of the Blue Mountains, whose hillsides and trails he has tramped, whose sky he has labored beneath. I’m drawn to their imagery and clear language, and the hand of a practical philosophy opening its rough palm under their winter sun.
Before you is a book of origins powered by an unapologetic, fiercely introspective, philosophical heart. Anchored by a reverence for the natural world, moored to landscapes both real and imagined, and tempered by a complicated interrogation of the political, Folly marks the finest publication by an already wise and accomplished poet.
About the Author
David Axelrod has published seven collections of poems, most recently, What Next, Old Knife? also from Lost Horse Press, and a collection of non-fiction, Troubled Intimacies. He teaches at Eastern Oregon University, where he directs the Ars Poetica Lecture Series and edits—along with Jodi Varon—the award-winning basalt: a journal of fine and literary arts. In addition, he is the co-director of the EOU low-residency MFA. He is currently at work on new collections of poems and essays, as well as editing a new edition of the poems of the late Walt Pavlich.
Some apples remain always just out of reach
of three-legged ladders and our outstretched
hands, as in October, when yellow jackets growl
inside overripe fruit that never seems to fall,
no matter the wind. Russet globes hang in trees,
rusting, mushy, molding, but very sweet
under the skin, a drunken feast for those of us
who haven’t forgotten our wings nor how we use
these to fly. It’s not really a generous concession,
a tenth part, though it’s no less our boon when—
in the crowns of those trees in January,
sky low and bleak, nuthatch, waxwing, towhee,
and the loud, misanthropic jay, all hungry
vagrants of the snow, jabber as though at a Jubilee.
Excerpt: I Missed My Parents Today
Excerpt: Skiing with Dostoyevsky
Excerpt: How It Is With Human Beings
Excerpt: After A Fast, In A Field Of Germinated Wheat
Excerpt: Word All Over, Beautiful As Sky
Excerpt: Status Quo