Common Carnage by Stephen Dobyns
'The bird on the branch was singing of gladness,/ disrupting my dreams with its dreadful screech./ Rushing outside I knocked it from its perch/ with one blow of the garden rake...' Taking a somewhat different tack from Keats in Ode to a Nightingale, Stephen Dobyns addresses the conundrum 'How hard to love the world; we must love the world '. The spiritual intermixed with the bawdy, the courageous with the cowardly, the kindly with the cruel - Common Carnage rejects the decorous and decorative to map the complexity, the common carnage of our lives, as it seeks to understand our nature. Stephen Dobyns is a spinner of dark, extravagant fables of a world we live or may live in. They present a view of what it means to be human which is at once both funny and bleak, compassionate and remorseless. His is a world haunted by regret, driven by desire and need, illuminated by daring make-believe. In his often frightening and sometimes strangely funny poems, Dobyns creates a remarkable bridge between pure entertainment and deep psychological insight.