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From the communal (a public hanging in Kentucky) to the personal (burying the family dog in the backyard), Miller asks: What do you see? He inspects what it means to be a father, husband, citizen — how to not only survive, but be present and love. Even when interrogating tough subjects, he weaves threads of hope, noting, for instance, how “bomb craters” with time become “ponds / exploding with lilies.”
A boy asks his father what it means to die; a poet wonders whether we can truly know another's thoughts; a man tries to understand how extreme violence and grace can occupy the same space. These are the questions Wayne Miller tackles in We the Jury: the hard ones, the impossible ones. From an academic dinner party disturbing in its crassness and disaffection to a family struggling to communicate gently the permanence of death, Miller situates these poems--taut and spare, yet rich in their images and full of unexpected turns--in dilemma. He faces moments of profound discomfort, grief, and even joy with a philosopher's curiosity, a father's compassion, and an overarching inquiry at the crossroads of ethics and art: what is the poet's role in making sense of human behavior? A bomb crater-turned-lake "exploding with lilies," a home lost during the late-aughts housing crash--these images and others, powerful and resonant, attempt to answer that question. Candid and vulnerable, Miller sits with us while we puzzle: we all wish we knew what to tell our children about death. But he also pushes past this and other uncertainties, vowing--and inviting us--to "expand our relationship / with Death," and with every challenging, uncomfortable subject we meet. In the face of questions that seem impossible to answer, We the Jury offers not a shrug, but curiosity, transparency, an opening of the arms.
About the Author
Wayne Miller is the author of Post-, winner of the Rilke Prize and the Colorado Book Award; The City, Our City, shortlisted for the Rilke Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; The Book of Props, named a best poetry book of the year by Coldfront Magazine and the Kansas City Star; and Only the Senses Sleep, winner of the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He has received the George Bogin Memorial Award, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, the Lyric Poetry Award, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Bess Hokin Prize, and a Fulbright Distinguished Scholarship to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University Belfast. He is cotranslator of two books by the Albanian writer Moikom Zeqo--most recently Zodiac, which was shortlisted for the PEN Center USA Award in Translation--and coeditor of three books: Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century, Tamura Ryuichi: On the Life & Work of a 20th Century Master, and New European Poets. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, co-directs the Unsung Masters Series, and serves as editor/managing editor of Copper Nickel.