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The Shape of Regret

Poems by Herbert Woodward Martin

Poetry, African American Studies

Published: October 2019
ISBN: 9780814347249
Pages: 80 Size: 6 x 9
Published: October 2019
ISBN: 9780814347256

The Shape of Regret is a new poetry collection with a long shelf life, something that will be whispered about—gossiped about—by creative readers and writers for years to come. Herbert Woodward Martin is an acclaimed professor and influential American poet who has been known to inspire and encourage.

To create his poems, Martin draws from his own life, experiences, and passions. Many of the poems speak directly or indirectly to poets who have shaped or interested Martin, including Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Lucille Clifton, Jackson Mac Low, and Robert Frost. He also gives further voice and testimony to the African American experience both in the present and the past. An early reader of the collection said that Martin "continues to contribute to the canon. As an African American poet, he incorporates voices, a range of perspectives, and a unique approach to conveying and incorporating culture into literary language."

Martin has been clear that his intention with this collection is to gather as many interesting ideas as possible in one place. His aim is, and has always been, to witness a thriving poetry community—one in which poets of all backgrounds can learn from each other and continue to grow together. The Shape of Regret is a wonderful place to either start or revive one’s love of poetry.

Herbert Woodward Martin is professor emeritus at University of Dayton, a performer (especially of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s work), African American scholar, and author of nine books of poetry.

Here, as always, Martin is pitch-perfect-tuned in poems that map the human heart like sonar. Blow into this book’s well-made songs with your own breath—and you’ll hear the music of not only regret but delight, humor, reverence, and wonder. I am more alive after reading this book.

– Robert Fanning, poet and professor of English at Central Michigan University and author of The Seed Thieves, American Prophet, Our Sudden Museum, and Severance

Martin gives voice to public and private histories in The Shape of Regret. His observant eye and astute ear resonate in the way ‘Tender snow / salute the empty trees, / the funeral crows, / swift swallows gliding / effortlessly on wings.’

– Linda Nemec Foster, author of Talking Diamonds and Amber Necklace from Gdansk

Beneath the reserved surface, the often quiet activity of Herbert Woodward Martin’s poems is the ‘excellent moment,’ he writes, ‘when terror knocks and whispers: may I come in?’ Crows, black wings, echoes of lynchings pass through these poems. They survive on a deep human love tinged with righteous anger, the desire to ‘kick the shit out of any / enemy given the chance.’ What prevails is determination and ‘a teaching of how to stay close to the earth.’ These are fiercely gentle poems, full of heart.

– Fleda Brown, author of The Woods Are on Fire: New and Selected Poems

A new book of poems by Martin is an event to celebrate. He is a poet of achieved wisdom and generous compassion who lives in history and is mindful of the present. These are poems distinguished by the freshness of their imagery and the seriousness of their reflections. May they find the readership they deserve.

– Charles Martin, author of Future Perfect

Martin is a known and beloved American author. Once he made public Paul Laurence Dunbar’s unpublished works, and now we have his own. Beneath the word, and moving beyond our world, Martin’s moral convictions are messages beautifully distilled. Through the knowledge of classics and the fruits of our culture, he moves the dissonance of our daily life to harmony.

– Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

A delightfully varied collection of poems [reading through them back-to-back] is like drinking a row of shots, beginning with resonant nature imagery, then witticism, ode, spiritual, guffaw, 21-gun salute, kissing, and compline.

– Sarah Werner Kiewitz