The Cuckoo

Peter Streckfus; Foreword by Louise Glück

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The winner of the 2003 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Peter Streckfus’s The Cuckoo, chosen by competition judge and Poet Laureate Louise Glück. It is Glück’s first selection as judge. In this unforgettable, daring first collection, Peter Streckfus offers the reader poems of deep originality and astonishing power. Taking his inspiration from both American and Chinese culture, Streckfus seems an impossible combination of John Ashbery and Ezra Pound. In her Foreword, Glück praises Streckfus’s art for its “nonsense and mystery,” its “mesmerizing beauty” and “luminous high-mindedness.”

Peter Streckfus lives in San Francisco with his wife.  His poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Matrix, Natural Bridge, Phoebe, Pleiades, and Slope

The Yale Series of Younger Poets remains the most prestigious [of poetry contests].

"These mutable, agile poems are a continual surprise. Like Monkey in Journey to the West, Peter Streckfus employs a variety of guises to create a splendid touch."—Arthur Sze, author of The Redshifting Web 

"At The Cuckoo’s heart is the expansive solitude of a journey westward toward the pure land. Peter Streckfus’s mercurial poems—epic in distance and drama, lyric in intimacy and intensity—shape-shift between humor and compassion, wonder and wisdom. ‘The cuckoo,’ the old folk songs says, ‘is a pretty bird and she warbles as she flies.’ The cuckoo is as well a mischief maker, laying its eggs in other birds’ nests. The surprise and delight of these poems is the radiance of their song and the daring of their appropriations."—Eric Pankey, author of Oracle Figures 

“The case for nonsense is not the same as the case against meaning. It belongs, in literature, to the holy fool and the cryptic sprite; in religion, to the visionary or the seer; in philosophy, to the Sphinx and the Zen master. . . . Such art asks, inevitably, a kind of consent of the reader. Or, in Peter Streckfus’s unforgettable first book, more active cooperation. What is transacted here between poet and reader has less to do with the reader’s being convinced by elegant or passionate argument, and more to do with seduction. And the instrument of our seduction, for once, is not charm but mesmerizing beauty.”—Louise Glück, U.S. poet laureate, from the Foreword

“[This is] a book which stands among the most authoritative and promising debuts in recent years: its capaciousness, its endless variety and range, the uncommon, thrilling impression it gives of a made and inhabitable world.”—Garth Greenwell, Boston Review  

“These are . . . poems of mystery and intuition that verge on the abstract yet exert remarkable compelling powers through an array of bold details and images. Streckfus imprints notions of recklessness, grandiosity and strange beauty on his work, whose central metaphor is the journey.”—Fredric Koeppel, The Commercial Appeal

“The 2003 Yale Series of Younger Poets winner, The Cuckoo, is a deserving recipient of the prize. Perhaps it will open the door for experimental writing to enjoy a more mainstream poetry audience.”—The Missouri Review

“The pleasures in The Cuckoo are many; Streckfus’s sense of humor is quite fetching, as are his social awareness lyrics. . . . [A] promising debut collection.”—John Casteen IV, Virginia Quarterly Review

ISBN: 9780300102710
Publication Date: March 11, 2004
80 pages, 5.5 x 9
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