Something of the energy, the savagery and emotional fierceness of Robert Lowell’s early poems is to be found in this impressive book.
The Optimist is Joshua Mehigan’s first book of poems. Selected by James Cummins as winner of the Hollis Summers Prize, The Optimist was printed in 2004 by Ohio University Press and named one of ForeWord’s top ten university press books of that year. In spring 2005, it was chosen as one of five finalists for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Published in The New York Times, Ploughshares, Poetry, and many other periodicals, poems from the collection are featured in Poetry Daily, Pushcart Prize XXX, and Penguin’s Poetry: A Pocket Anthology.
Grounded in the lyric mode, but informed by narrative and dramatic elements, the poems in The Optimist draw on a large range of subjects, from the weather and retirement to love and murder, and consider abiding themes like death, desire, and consciousness with a mix of imagination and compassion. Read a sample here.
A work of some poise and finish, by turns delicate and robust. . . . does not feel like a debut.
—D.H. Tracy, Poetry
There is more insight into domestic grief in these and other poems in The Optimist than in a dozen louder, more overtly confessional books. And that sense of insight born from experience is what makes Mehigan’s work so moving and impressive. Few American poets, old or young, seem to know so much.
—Adam Kirsch, Contemporary Poetry Review
Hallelujah . . . for the poems of Joshua Mehigan, which make me a believer all over again.
—David Mason, The Hudson Review
Adam Kirsch. “Young Poets Calling II.” The Modern Element (W.W. Norton, 2008).
James Matthew Wilson. “Traces of Fugitive Gods.” The Dark Horse (Winter 2007–2008).
David Mason. “The Passionate Pursuit of the Real.” The Hudson Review (Summer 2005).
Dustin Michael. “The Optimist.” Midwest Book Review (July 2005).
D.H. Tracy. “Ten Takes.” Poetry (June 2005).
Jeannie Kidera. “The Optimist.” Mid-American Review (Spring 2005).
D.A. Jeremy Telman. Valparaiso Poetry Review (Spring / Summer 2005).
Peter Skinner. “Seventh Annual Look at ForeWord’s Big Ten Picks.” ForeWord (Nov. / Dec. 2005).
Adam Kirsch. “Among Books: The Lines of the Poets.” New York Sun (Nov. 3, 2004).
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Christophe Fricker. In Larkin Terminal: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen, a collection of personal essays. (Plöttner, 2009).
M.C. Bruce (host). Poets’ Café. Radio Pacifica KPFK 90.7 FM (Aug. 2005 and Jan. 2006).
John Freeman Gill. “Finding the Verse in Adversity.” New York Times (17 Apr. 2005).
Ohio Univ. Press Book News. “Questions and Answers with Joshua Mehigan” (Dec. 2004).
ADVANCE PRAISE [CUT DOWN AND CUT SOME ENTIRELY]
. . . possessed of a fine sensibility, a sense of humor, and a rare gift for converting deeply felt experience into works of art.
. . . already the work of a master coming into his unique own. Mehigan writes with a deep and alarming calmness that derives directly from his mastery, and his poems shine with luminous strangeness. The Optimist possesses the mysterious vision and power of great art.
These poems are often wound tight as springs, and are concentrations of violent feelings and visions of cruelty, yet uttered in a language quietly brilliant, as well as undeniably powerful.
W.B. Yeats, in an exhortation, wrote: ‘Irish poets, learn your trade!’ Joshua Mehigan has learned his trade. These beautifully made and deeply moving poems add up to The Optimist, a brilliant and brave first book.
. . . a poet of glowing gifts—his exquisite control of meter and rhyme and his never-failing diction, pointed and resonant both, are startlingly good, as is his sense of pace and timing in poem after poem. . . . This book is a remarkable achievement.
The world is given its due in these poems, but its due is the subjective voice making ‘objective’ reality into the reality of art.