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At the Bureau of Divine Music

Michael Heffernan

Award Winner


Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9780814335109
Pages: 80 Size: 6 x 9
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9780814336335
Pages: 80 Size: EPUB

In Michael Heffernan's disarming poetry, the pagan's inchoate urgencies meet the saint's call to reflection and praise—the abject converses with the elevated, the comic qualifies the sanctified.”

— Ron Slate

In At the Bureau of Divine Music, award-winning poet Michael Heffernan combines serious ruminations on the passage of years, on love and infidelity, and on remembrances and regrets with meditations on the more ordinary occurrences of daily life. No matter what their subject matter, the poems are united by their contemplative tone, intelligent details, and elegant style. Written mostly in iambic pentameter, and some in formal sonnets, Heffernan’s poems effortlessly blend the surreal and the actual, the exciting and the mundane, and make for a unique and satisfying reading experience.

At the Bureau of Divine Music contains a mix of long monologues that set out dramatic narratives and shorter pieces that glimpse only a limited scene. His complex speakers are at turns funny and angry, loving and bitter. Their insightful descriptions are filled with sensory details—the tastes, sounds, smells, and sights of memories, dreams, and the trials of the moment—and they inhabit dreamy but familiar settings like "whole neighborhoods of happy people," the suburban backyard, or the drive-in movie theater on the edge of town. While some of the poems are inspired by domestic disturbances, betrayals, and losses, others visit redemptions, sweet long-ago journeys, and ecstasies.

This collection contains a range of Heffernan’s work from the last several years, presented here together for the first time. Fans of Heffernan’s writing and readers interested in poetry will enjoy At the Bureau of Divine Music.

Michael Heffernan is a Detroit native who has taught poetry in universities in Michigan, Kansas, Washington, Ireland, and, since 1986, at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. At the Bureau of Divine Music is his ninth book. His awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Porter Prize for Literary Excellence, two Pushcart Prizes, and three grants (the maximum awarded) from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In Michael Heffernan's disarming poetry, the pagan's inchoate urgencies meet the saint's call to reflection and praise-the abject converses with the elevated, the comic qualifies the sanctified. Heffernan's voice, immediately recognizable among those of his generation, is the playfully serious sound of an enduring personality."

– Ron Slate, author of The Great Wave

Like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Badlands of South Dakota, Michael Heffernan is a national treasure. By turns haunting, ethereal, quirky, and humorous, his poems never fail to delight."

– Martha Silano, author of The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception and Blue Positive

At the Bureau of Divine Music is a deep meditation on the passage of time and on the central place of love and art in that process. While dealing with these very large themes, Heffernan never loses his sense of humor nor a winning sense of his own fragility and limitations."

– Keith Taylor, author of If the World Becomes So Bright (Wayne State University Press, 2009)

Always his imagination is flitting back to the past and jumping ahead to the future. Restlessness is a trait he shares with many of his characters, some of who appear in masterful dramatic monologues: travelers, dreamers, unfaithful lovers, embezzlers, and a man who aspires to be the neighborhood Gaughin. His travels, real or imaginary, pack his poems with references and asides that had me chasing to keep up."

– Maggie Lane

Poet Michael Heffernan is no stranger to travel. His ninth collection of poetry, At The Bureau of Divine Music, shimmies across the globe, memory and persona quicker than high-speed rail…As moving as a high, open tree swing, pendulating between the foreign and the familiar-Heffernan's latest collection is a triumphant road leading home…"

– Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord Reviews

Cribbing from Leo Tolstoy, poets of place are all alike in how that particular locale obsesses them, whereas poets from Detroit are uniquely autochthonous. Jim Daniels, Toi Derricotte, Robert Hayden, and Philip Levine are four writers who come to mind, and each wears their (sometimes bittersweet) affection for Detroit like a permanent tattoo. Michael Heffernan, along with the above poets, has spent more time away from his native city than within it, yet no matter where he goes-Kansas, Washington, Ireland, Arkansas-he totes Detroit's DNA along with him, whether he chooses to or not."

– Larry O. Dean, New Pages, June 2011

  • 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the Poetry category