Coughlin, Thomas Ryan
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This collection of poems, across three sections, presents work in the lyric tradition that attends to varying measures of form: rhyme, varying meter, the demands of the stanza, the demands of the line, and the structured address. Through formal constraints, however rigid, the poems draw and follow a set of speakers struggling to restrain themselves and prevent their own dissolution from food, drink, drugs, sex, or all of the above. The speakers, often <i>personae</i>, indulge language for its own pleasures, and playfully betray an uneasiness with the schemes of <i>Eros</i> and other inheritances of classical myth, contested or broken domestic spaces, and American history. The white South figures as a glorified, lampooned, and indicted cultural landscape on which to consider the limits of sympathy for personal and social privilege and excess. Shades of the Cavalier myth, from its basis in the English Literature of the mid-to-late seventeenth century to the founding of Virginia and its continued legacy there and throughout the South, extend the collection’s formalism toward more fractured, subjective lyrics, in which history informs, confounds, and reveals personality. This collection seeks presence through the past, and the past through the present. <i>The Cavaliers</i> represents the influence of cultural myth and history on the attitudes of individuals who, in psychologically crucial moments, must negotiate the exaggerations and delicacies of the myths they cherish about their homes, families and themselves. In those negotiations, unflattering voices entertain their most pathetic impulses, and engage sympathetic responses in worlds of the senses, somewhere between mercy and comeuppance.