In this, his eleventh poetry collection, Baron Wormser offers the range of subjects and imaginative approaches his readers have come to expect—from the life of a candle to the life of a Jewish Résistance fighter, from elegy to monologue, from a Godard film to the National Football League. The historical circumstances that touch, anneal, shatter, and buttress a life are paramount. The reality of consequences remains the ongoing, ineluctable drama. We all live in the History Hotel where love and betrayal, hope and despair go hand in hand. Showing those entangled hands is the work of these poems.
The History HotelBaron Wormser
|6 × 9 in
Meet the Author
Baron Wormser is the author of twenty books including novels, a memoir, a book of short stories, two coauthored books about teaching poetry, and many books of poetry. Essays of his appeared in Best American Essays 2014 and 2018. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From 2000 to 2005, he served as poet laureate of the state of Maine and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the University of Maine at Augusta. He is the founder of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching.
Baron Wormser is a master wizard of world poetry, and his stories in The History Hotel will frighten and exhilarate you while serving their forbidden and diabolic fruit. In these new poems, each one a multifaceted diamond of irony, pathos, nostalgia, wit, and wisdom, Wormser is riotously and painfully funny as the world teeters on its axis and hurtles toward oblivion. Reading Wormser, we enter a landscape smoldering after bombing or hurtling on its own blind volition. In his elegy for the great Polish poet Zagajewski, Wormser finds a way to acknowledge the positive side of the two-faced coin and contradiction of human action: “‘Thank you,’ you said / To Life and somewhat remarkably she thanked you back.”
—Indran Amirthanayagam, author of Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant
“Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,” wrote Shakespeare, and in The History Hotel Baron Wormser does just that, beholding the world’s weariness with a thousand-yard stare and an eloquence that can spit nails or rain feathers. These all-too-aware poems have something sanguine to report: amid the soul-flattening wreckage of “greedy nations,” somehow there is still amorous folly, chatter, longing, picnics in graveyards, childhood, and art. The History Hotel feels likepoetry written at the event horizon of a black hole, in the stark light of a Hopper painting.
—Diana Goetsch, author of This Body I Wore
The History Hotel carries a mixture of quiet humor and hard-nosed insight. There’s little decoration here, no fluff to deflect our attention from what we know that we know—just the energetic presence of Wormser’s consistently cool, keen sensibility that is both bewildered and wise. Line by line, these poems resuscitate our weathered, better selves and the ability to see beyond the lurid surfaces that slowly but surely overwhelm our lives. If the current times offer us a steady stream of absurdities, if we intend to hold onto a sense of compassion while trying to make a sensible way through these days, Baron Wormser’s The History Hotel has cleared a rough path for us.
—Tim Seibles, author of Voodoo Libretto: New & Selected Poems
Elegy for the Poet Adam Zagajewski
You appeared as one of the examiners.
Life, ever laggard in her assignments
But possessed of an absurd confidence,
Came up first. And last.
She curtsied; you smiled while she pulled
Out of a battered suitcase numerous
Attempts at eloquence. “Here,” she said,
“Is the heart, not just a muscle.” She
Winked coyly. “Here is logic.” She brandished
A volume of Descartes. You winced.
In other rooms and beyond those rooms
So much was occurring that went on happily
And unhappily, indifferent to protocols,
Brimming with anemones, half-heard melodies,
Life cleared her throat and asked if
Everything was clear. “No,” you said. “Nothing
Is clear.” There was then a strangely comfortable silence,
A space that might be an era, a three-score-and-ten,
Or one of those moments that lived in memory
For what seemed like forever.
“Thank you,” you said
To Life and somewhat remarkably she thanked you back.
after Gwendolyn Brooks
Easy to wake, enjoy this day where someone named “I”
Goes forth to smell flowers, drive a car, swear
At some small annoyance while wondering how to
Hold this day not just in present-tense focus but keep
The past of it there, the grit in history’s pipes, the
Fear beneath the bed and school and office where the dead
Can be heard faintly rattling bones, spitting upon
The presumptions of persons who think (or wish) that my
Life has no shadows, who say to death “never mind.”
from The History Hotel
Word was that Laura had been “a maiden aunt.”
October, the season of dying disappointments,
Beloved of gravediggers, poets, and dog walkers.
Later, someone else comes along and wonders
who laid the wreath,
And how come the hotel from who-knows-when
is still standing.
Is it a memorial? Did destiny get lost? That patina—
is it regret or verdigris?
The History Hotel
Pub date – March 2023
Trade paper – 6 x 9″
Notable Voices – Poetry