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Acoustic Shadows by John Matthias


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Acoustic shadows—sound suppressed in such a way that even General Grant was deceived by one at the Battle of Iuka in the American Civil War—complicate the lives of many figures appearing in these poems, including that of the young John Matthias at his grandfather’s house on Iuka Drive in Columbus, Ohio in the 1950s. This book, Matthias’s first volume of entirely new poems since Complayntes for Doctor Neuro (Shearsman, 2016), includes a group of short lyrics followed by an essay called “Some Zones” (about places in which a kind of imaginative clarity becomes possible) and two longish sequences, “Prynne and a Petoskey Stone” and “First and Last Opinions,” dealing with the American Midwest from the perspective of an English poet’s Cambridge, and the Ohio Supreme Court opinions written by Matthias’s father and grandfather. The title poem concludes the volume by bringing together memories and documents relating to the poet’s great-grandfather, especially those pertaining to Civil War battles in which he fought alongside the famous and mysterious Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil’s Dictionary, who disappeared in Mexico in 1913.

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