Living With Noise
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There is a lush density of experience in this book: experience lived, observed, contemplated and encompassed. Voth’s gaze is unflinching as he takes in the vast strangeness of being human, and makes of it something to praise. Both hell and salvation are present and fully witnessed in these poems, from the “Girl along the bank of impossible need, girl / Along the boulevard of beautiful whores” to the garden weeds that have “what we’ve all wanted … a perfect worship of survival.” Ultimately, Voth is a lover of life in all its difficult guises; his love is deeper and more convincing because it is hard-won. This is a book to savor and reread. —Ruth L. Schwartz, author of Edgewater
Living with Noise is a book determined to praise the terms of life not just by acknowledging the worst things that can happen to us individually or collectively but by discovering within personal and communal misfortune itself the very solidarity and love that can turn disaster into something like sustaining hope. Musical, intelligent and immensely moving, Joseph Voth has written a book that lives up to its passionate aspiration to remind us at every turn, despite how little time we're all allotted, that "There is still time/Before falling / To know you more." —Alan Shapiro, author of Tantalus in Love
About the Author
Joseph Voth was born in Reedley, California in 1971. He worked a variety of jobs before returning to California to earn an MFA from California State University, Fresno. He taught writing courses at San Diego State University and local community colleges for ten years before moving to New York City, where he currently writes. He is the recipient of the Benks Family Scholarship for Writing, a Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and a Plainsongs Poetry Award (Hastings College). His work has appeared in Epoch, South Carolina Review, Connecticut Review and River Oak Review, among many others.
Selected Poem: What, Then
The student who has not raised her hand all semester
Rises from her seat to wrest the chalk from my hand
And right the injustice of a sentence fragment. Others
Nod in agreement while the boy who has slept for
Weeks, rises from the dark to recite the names of people
Dead before his important life began: Whitman, Ruth,
Hendrix, he says and I awaken, cock hard as piano wire,
And wonder when my dreams turned from forbidden fruit
To tuna casserole. I used to, I used to, sing the addled
Creases of my brain and though the flesh is willing,
The spirit, like the student at the board, goes through
The motion of believing, repeats yesterday’s lesson,
Looks up at the clock too often.
The pier a lifetime ago, I was stung by a ray and my life
Returned. For hours you pinched my shoulder as the
Hot water drained the barbs from my foot. Today, we
Climbed the hills above the gypsy poet’s house and
The Spanish orchards unfolded strange fruit in the valley
Beneath us. What, then, if we pick the flesh-colored
Nisperos from the branches rather than make love on the hill?
The sour fruit fills our mouths, the ray makes its incision,
You and I approach the board in a dream, not understanding
The question or the answer.