Tropical Depressions

Winner of the 1987 Iowa Poetry Prize

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100 pages

"[In Glaser's book] we are invited to lose ourselves in a brand of language that is consistently rich, specific, lyrical and brightly evocative."—Ohioana Quarterly

"The struggle to resist what is easy, what is expected, is what brings delight after delight for the reader. Not only does Glaser resist using strict form in poetry, but he also adds that he wants to 'deconstruct nostalgias,' which pokes fun at the serious literary theorists, while it peels away at what he has lived through, what he is forced to live as the stable family man/teacher, in order to get at his core or at least at that troubled, energetic self that seems to haunt most of his best work."—The And Review

"There's an awful lot of blood, mucus, urine, and semen dripping through these poems."—American Book Review

"[This book] is most alive in the language. Glaser has a distinct voice. No matter what, this voice carries through with an odd mixture of irony, satire, wonderment, and sometimes just a barely contained snarl. This is a persona the reader can find, if not a friend, at least someone who cuts to the heart of the matter…."—Mariann Hofer in Ohio Writer

Robert Frost's ovenbird question was, "What to make of a diminished thing?" This new volume of poetry by Elton Glaser answers that question on a personal level, by broadening the sense of loss and exile until it envelops our common concerns of the twentieth century: the loss of love, faith, civility—all the old verities diminished and distorted.

While the first two sections of the book raise exuberant laments for the domestic, artistic, amatory, and religious life, the third section of poems moves beyond complaint to celebration. The complainer, purged of his grievances, leaves behind a northern exile and moves somewhere closer to home. In these final poems, Glaser returns to the South and his native city of New Orleans. Without nostalgia for the romance of moonlit magnolias, without denial of the region's dark past, he voices a more measured, more settled view of the world, one of balance and hard-won acceptance.

Table of contents: 



Complaint against Crows

Festive Songs on Lesser Occasions

El Rancho Roacho

Mal de Moi

Ground Level

The Lesson

Corrosive Sublimate

Hogtown Stomp

Elegant Solutions

Homage to Catatonia

Coming and Going


New Year’s Fear

Planting the Flag




Storm Damage


Holograms of the Holy

Syllabus of Errors

Dolls Divided

Dolls Reading Descartes

Ragdoll Raga

Excursions on the Ontological Plan


Deciduous Variations on Akron

Seasonal Adjustments

Complaint against Complaint



Views of the Vieux Carré

Moonwalk on the Mississippi


Fantasia on Tchoupitoulas Wharf

Magdalena of Decatur Street

Elegy for Professor Longhair


Mosquito Hawks

Cajun Graveyard

High Ground in Louisiana

Chicken on Sunday


At Bay St. Louis

Wading the Gulf

Possum County Breakdown

Red Beans & Rice


Coming And Going

Whatever we get out of this,
It's not enough. Once,
I could rattle a flat highway
To somewhere else, on the front seat
A jug of monkey rum
And miles behind me a woman
With her heart blown out, soaking
The motel bed in moans,
As the moonlight fell
Face down in the parking lot.

After the wrong turns
That heaved us here, as far
From heaven as from hell,
We brood over the blame:
The unforgiving shifts of weather; a blur
Where the plot lines rise
Out of smalltalk into crisis;
Havoc in the maps. Looking for
The only road left open, the course
Of least grief, we try
To take it all back,
Like wheels sidewinding deep
In mire and loose gravel,
In the slack panic of regret.

But the way I feel tonight,
Neither misery nor mercy
Can steer me through the mudmaze
Or heal my needs. And already
It's too late for anger,
The kind that patches up
The wound it's opened, poultice
At the pressure point; too late
For apologies, the rearview retrieval
Of colliding lives. I want to
Put the pedal down again and leave
Blue smears and smoke
When I drive these shaken dreams away.