The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments
by P.H. Liotta

ISBN: 978-0-9744503-8-4
Perfect Bound, $16.00
Publication Date: June 2007
8.25 x 7.5 inches, 96 pages

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The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments is a personal history of the author’s humanity. Comprising over a quarter century’s work of poems, from a memoir-in-verse of a near fatal ascent of Iran’s mythic Mount Damavand to reflections on the current disasters in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, this book is both a personal and a political statement. While the focus is often on personal, often incredible experience, Liotta never moves far from the issue of family—especially concerns for the future of his daughter, Gaia. In a larger sense, of course, this book is finally an expression for the “larger” Gaia, the earth itself, and mother of us all.

“P. H. Liotta’s poems embody expansive intelligence, wit, and a moral capacity that is inclusive and demanding without ever being didactic. These poems embrace history and the present, the small beautiful moments of family life and the horrors some families endure. Liotta’s robust lyricism, his knowledge of myth and non-western cultures, informs his poetry with timelessness and elegance.” —Denise Duhamel, author of Two and Two and Kinky

“These poems are informed by passionate intelligent love for the known world. Their speaker suffers our suffering human kind, foreign and domestic; our terrible violence, our cherished tenderness. We are brought to a halt by this immediate and large-minded vision of the real—the glorious daughter crowned with flowers, the friend dead in his blood on the street—and the poet who transfigures them into the first-hand lines of poems.” —Marie Ponsot, from the citation for the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America

“P. H. Liotta has always brought intensity and commitment to whatever he does, whether he’s writing a book on lawless countries or on peregrine falcons, or flying missions over the former YugoslaviaThe Graveyard of Fallen Monuments is no exception.. Liotta writes political poems that aren’t preachy; poems about his family, especially his daughter Gaia, that aren’t sentimental; and poems about loss that demand hope. “Will we deserve the mutilated earth?” Liotta asks. “Is there something wrong with peace?” At a time when most of our poets are navel gazing, doing stand-up comedy, or playing meaningless linguistic games, P.H. Liotta has written a book that will shake people up.  With The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments, he has become a lightning rod for a whole generation’s hopes and fears.” —Peter Johnson, author of Eduardo & “I”; winner of the Academy of American Poets James Laughlin Award for Miracles & Mortifications

The Ruins of Athens: A Balkan Memoir is work of immense proportions. Written in the great spirit of poetry that has impelled the best and most ambitious compositions of our century, it celebrates—if that’s the word—the end of our century, and celebrates it in the most exact and exacting place: Serbia. Liotta’s brutally brilliant vision is an extended mythos that implicates us all. Among the most cogent political poetry I’ve ever read. It reminds me of Auden.” —Hayden Carruth, winner of the National Book Award for Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey

“A classical voice of great beauty, Liotta celebrates human connectedness in the best tradition of humanism. It is a complex optimism, however, which can stare down horror square in the face, sustained by the joy of love and friendship. The Ruins of Athens: A Balkan Memoir is song with the power to heal.” —William Meredith, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Partial Accounts and the National Book Award for Effort at Speech

From The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments...

The Blue Whale

Drifting on a river she could not control, the broken carcass of a blue whale came to our shores. By then, jaw already cracked from the prop-blade of a ship, she lingered too long at the surface, unable to feed. Struck by a tanker crossing from Anvers to Providence, buoyed by the bulbous chin of the bow, the leviathan never knew what hit her. Water pres­sure kept the corpse in place until they entered Narragansett Bay. Dead a week already, she was gaffed and hooked and dragged alongside the pilot boat to Second’s Beach.

Back then, no one knew if she were male or female. “She” could glory in the sand while “he” grew fetid and fell away, waiting for dissection. The skeleton would be buried in the dunes, in secret, when it was done. Like the odd doctor in Marlow’s darkness, who measures the crania of those who drift “out there” and “up the Congo,” with caliper-like things, “in the interest of science.” Oh, I never see them come back, he said.

By the time I get there, cubism has set in. A thousand faces circle the cadaver. The dead remains: a wishbone bent toward nothing, inverted jawbone jabs at sky. Mist fizzles into rain. The organs splayed out in the drift sizzle like the sound of crackling bacon. Each fleck of water slices at the desiccated blood. There’s still enough to feel the loss. A river of baleen. A disembodied fluke.

Two days on, the ebb of human flotsam has washed clean. “He” and “she” are going now—into the gloam. A bull­dozer grumbles in the downpour: a single beacon, tachistoscopic, flam­ing red. And when the three of us arrive, everyone and thing are gone. My daughter turns in wind and keeps on asking, What did she look like? Why did she die? Just face the sea, the pictures of a floating world: the subject sees but never speaks. The way you fear the menace left unsaid—the natural convergence weighing down. You dream alone.

Out there, what difference between what stretches ahead and what is past? The Acropolis and Parthenon, streaming into view. The ruined Balkans, hope and slaughter. Breadlines in St. Petersburg.

Kurds fleeing from the bombing runs. Head for the Kyrgiz steppe. See for yourself: the free spillage of Tajik blood or the chaos-order of the Taliban. The black sturgeon, up from Caspian depths, flashing through air. Behold the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

I don’t know about you. But for me, we’re drifting still. I see the wreck of a whale, watch it going, going . . . like seals in the outer harbor, who tumble in brine and do their best ignoring death, like the one tied to the mast with wax in ears who was forced not to listen, what good could come in reading the runes of a ruined life? O lantern without bearer, you, too, are drifting to spite your course. And the earth was salt before the ocean turned to tears.

Sachuest Point,
Aquidneck Island.

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