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Connoisseurs of Worms

Connoisseurs of Worms

Deborah Warren

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85-page paperback / 5.5" x 8.5" / ISBN 9781589881563 / Publication Date: 4/27/2021

Deborah Warren's witty and energetic poems are full of play and imagination. The title poem of Connoisseurs of Worms describes the mole, a ‘geonaut supreme’ with his oddly enviable tunnel vision. Other animals prompt views about humans, and not always happy ones. Alongside Charlemagne’s elephant and an intracoronary mosquito, topics include a queen with an alleged tail, laughter-divination, Neanderthal hygiene, and an exploding baby. These poems delight in new perspectives and an astounding verbal music.

"Warren goes anywhere, inhabits anything: it is fun to see a poet so willing to embrace metamorphosis . . . A great book."
The Millions

"Connoisseurs of Worms focuses on the humble, the seemingly insignificant, even the reviled—no subject too small or too abstruse to be addressed with Warren’s metaphysical ingenuity—but ends above ground, while the sun still shines and there is still hay to make. It starts small and ends with the panoramic sweep. As this is Warren’s fourth collection, it might be time for a Selected, one which would lean toward the poems that take bigger emotional risks like “Late Mowing,” that display Warren’s mastery, an ease in the tradition, a virtuosic but idiosyncratic music, and a skeleton’s comfort in its own living skin."
Los Angeles Review of Books

"Immensely engaging . . . Steeped in references to Greek and Roman history and literature, this book sings with an erudite yet accessible energy one might expect from a former Latin teacher. After finishing this collection, readers will definitely want to dive into the rest of Warren's oeuvre."Booklist

"Understated, funny, and wise."Commonweal

"Connoisseurs of Worms is a bestiary, a theogony, a field guide, a museum guide, a pantheon, a history of learning . . . Reading these poems will alter your thinking about a good many of the things that share heaven and earth with us.”―Mark Jarman, author of The Heronry and Dailiness

“T. S. Eliot once defined ‘wit’ as ‘a tough reasonableness beneath the slight lyric grace.’ Deborah Warren's poems are admirable examples of such a quality; their reasonableness always waiting for a good reader to discover it; their lyric grace revealed through the formal strengths of rhyme (often pleasingly irregular), and a persuasive speaking voice with the suppleness of good prose. She is a delight to read―indeed, to read aloud.”―William H. Pritchard, author of Updike: America's Man of Letters 


"Not since Richard Wilbur has a poet combined formal grace, visual imagination, and worldly wisdom as appealingly as Deborah Warren. Whether she is writing about the largest subjects―history, love, the soul―or the smallest―housecats, Latin lessons, Cleopatra's nose―Warren, like the craftsman she writes about in 'The Glassblower," shows that she is a master of the 'possibility and prism' of her art."―Adam Kirsch on Dream with Flowers and Bowl of Fruit

"Deborah Warren's poised and meticulous poems deliver pure potential in small packages: an egg, a kitten, a bluebird. Each burnished object or creature contains a principle of growth; hence, even Warren's tiniest lyrics move us from one state of being to another . . . Warren is also a mistress of finely observed images from nature, art, and history. Finally, the voice that coveys these varied poetic riches―a voice by turns deadpan, fretful, rueful, playful―is unfailingly understated. Each poem thereby retains its integrity, freshness, and mystery."―Rachel Hadas on Dream with Flowers and Bowl of Fruit

"What a strange, profound, and beautiful book this is, with its insistence on pursuing precisely that whose nature it is to elude pursuit! The widening range of Warren's restless attention encompasses aesthetics, the arts, nature, the difficulties of perception, and the complicated psychic dynamics of aging; and she tackles all of it in language that bristles with intellect and passion, discipline and a yearning to break free. How irresistible I find her invitation to join in her pursuit, in poem after poem in this dazzling collection."―Rhina P. Espaillat on Dream with Flowers and Bowl of Fruit

"Ms. Warren's poems combine imagination with intelligence, music with emotional energy. The language sparkles in poem after poem."―Dana Gioia on Zero Meridian

"Warren is among the very finest American poets who still observe the strictures of meter and rhyme. She informs her work with lively feeling, wit, wisdom, and memorable music; she keeps us sitting up and interested."―X. J. Kennedy on Zero Meridian



Earth is his occupation, and the mole
works the turf in his native breaststroke, swimming
hallways into the sod―a geonaut
supreme, and connoisseur of worms; I’ve heard him
breaking roots an inch beneath my sole
and seen how the subterranean specialist
carves out for himself a single, simple role.

I envy the expertise he brings to bear
on dirt, the narrow office he was given;
as for me, my habitat is thought,
where I grope and sweat and scrabble out a living
forced to prove―up here in a windy lair
as invisible as the mole’s―that there exists
an animal who can dig a hole in air.

Deborah Warren is the author of three books of poetry―The Size of Happiness, Zero Meridian, winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize, and Dream With Flowers and Bowl of Fruit, winner of the Richard Wilbur Award―and a translation of Ausonius: The Moselle and Other Poems. Warren's writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, and other publications, and she has won the Robert Penn Warren Prize, Howard Nemerov Award, Robert Frost Award, and Meringoff Award for her work. She lives in Massachusetts.

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