The Effigies: documentary prose poems and flash fictions about people of New Orleans. Plinth Books, 1998. Out of print / contact author.
Influenced by Jean Follain's precise, laconic prose portraits of rural France, The Effigies resembles a photo album full of Southerners who are as familiar and emblematic as they are nameless. These flash fictions also evoke the work of documentary photographers of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange--and like their photo-documents, are packed with fragments of culture and human gesture, tightly framed, suddenly opening out into city vistas, toward the vanishing points of history.
The Effigies has been described as "super-concentrated novels," but is finally anti-novelistic: a formal contrary to the realistic novel whose few characters are magnified and elaborated in expansive, slow-developing patterns of voices and events. Unlike the intertwining of individual fates in a novel, these lives never cross, spread across a city large enough to overlook their confined isolations. These human sparrows, these characters-in-effigy are caught looking back, toward all that is lost to them; looking this way and that, for wht they will never have; looking ahead, to what they must yet endure.
"The boundless form which the prose poem at its best commands allows a voice to rise...just above the quietness of contemplative murmur, yet this same form still provides for the range and ambition in the work of Robert Hill Long [who],more than any poet since Galway Kinnell, considers death the central concern of his work.
“The poems themselves often read like imploded novels. In this sense then, the book contains forty-nine'implosions,' and by the journey's end, the reader as traveler is fairly exhausted and emotional drained. The Effigies may well represent something entirely new for poetry, prose poetry, and sudden fictions; at the least, this work adds significantly to the rich heritage Long has already provided in his work, and bears fairly reliable indicators that a great deal of his magic is likely still waiting in the world."
—P.H. Liotta, Learning to Fly, The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments
Cover photograph by Robert Chamberlain
Walking Wounded, WordTech Editions, 2012. Out of print /contact author.
“Robert Hill Long's Walking Wounded is a rare avis in these literary times: a work of poetry that looks steadfastly beyond the self to the unpoetic world. His fine lines trace the tragedies and ironies of war, conquest, famine, death without the romance of a Revelation, but--when all seems lost--redeem with images of resolution and hope. In these poems are the biographies of people whose stories, though sometimes excerpted in sound bites and film clips, are never told with the depth and empathy found here. In these poems are images that haunt and infuriate all the more because they are not only true, they are real."
--David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident, South Street
“This poet knows that there are no survivors when it comes to war, neither abroad nor at home. Everyone is wounded or traumatized in one way or another. Long presents us with a cast of unforgettable characters in poetry that packs a linguistic punch,cline by line, image by graphic image. His words are unflinching and sear the consequences of human violence into the reader's consciousness--and conscience. In a country that often hides the results of its foreign policy from its own populations, poetry like this can still tell the truth.”
—Kurt Brown, No Other Paradise, Return of the Prodigals
Cover by RHL, based on a photograph by Adam Skoczylas.
The Kilim Dreaming. Bear Star Press, 2010.
Three sonnet sequences of 10-35 pages, and one long (10-page) indefinite sentence ("...of Exile in Florence, Massachusetts") that showcase storytelling in form and storytelling in syntactical anarchy.
Winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Prize for a collection by a poet west of the Mississippi.
Comprising three sonnet sequences and one very long indefinite sentence ("...of Exile in Florence, Massachusetts"), The Kilim Dreaming showcases Robert Hill Long's gift as a storyteller. "The Spear Lily" introduces us to two much-damaged prostitutes, male and female, whose assignation in a botanical garden becomes the catalyst for them to reimagine a mutual future. "The Book of Joel," dedicated to a child-man who died unexpectedly, portrays his nineteen years in nineteen emblematic sonnets. The title poem, a true thriller, takes us into Turkey and the twined lives of Ahmet, a rug merchant specializing in kilims, and Leila, a weaver desperate to escape the confines of her culture and history. The book's rollicking closer describes with wildly varying degrees of truth the poet's former life in a Massachusetts silk-mill village settled by Italian immigrants. Talking crow-poets, warped butchers and postmen and diner cooks, crippled veterans with Bingo cards and assault rifles, Dr. Bronner's soap, local history, and a classic New England diner contribute to the poem's antic mood.
"By turns whimsical, terrifying, and elegiac, the four sobering poetic sequences featured in e Kilim Dreaming move with an acute formal and narrative dexterity, and they cast a wide net—wide enough, in fact, to engage head-on with the boundless complexities of contemporary life. These poems bear witness to the intersection of heart and mind, and they show us a poet brave enough to reach into the recesses of his essential public and private concerns."
~Michael McGriff, To Build My Shadow a Fire, Early Hour
"Robert Hill Long tells seductive narratives. Whether they’re stories of prostitutes of opposite genders swapping their own creation myths or of a Turkish rug merchant falling into an enchanted dream of what may be the source of all Art, they enchant. His intellectual accomplishments here are stunning; the poetic cra on display something even more than that: astonishing."
~Anthony Giardina, The Country of Marriage, White Guys
A Cast Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: MadHat Press, 2019. Peter Johnson, editor.
“A Cast-Iron Aeroplane is at once a fun and valuable anthology because of its variety of prose poems and its format—80 poems by 80 poets, with commentaries on the poems by the poets. As the editor Peter Johnson suggests in his preface, it is refreshing to encounter poets unafraid of discussing their own work, and Johnson has set up non-restrictive terms for discussion worthy of the genre itself. As for the poems themselves, no succinct summary will do them justice. Generically speaking, they riff off the anecdote, the description, the short-short story, love poetry, surrealist poetry, and even ekphrastic poetry. Sometimes prose is mixed with verse, and one poem is reminiscent of a page out of a Renaissance emblem book. Playfulness is a leitmotif of the volume, but the play takes many forms, and it is often a prelude to a complex thought or an intense emotion that might not be accessible through direct approach or through verse in its traditional forms.
“The publication of this anthology is also an occasion to reflect on prose poetry as a genre, or an anti-genre, depending on where one is coming from. Here is where the combination of poems and commentaries is especially appealing/thought-provoking. The commentaries, in their rhetorical gestures, like digression and self-correction, often take on the qualities of the prose poems they are reflecting on, and this blurring between poem and commentary is one of the many winning features of the book, making this anthology a cast-iron airplane that actually does fly.”
—Steven Monte, author of Invisible Fences:
Prose Poetry as a Genre in French and American Literature
FEATURED POEM & COMMENTARY BY RHL: "Malpensa, Outbound"
The Power to Die , Cleveland State University Poetry Center,1987.
“Robert Hill Long’s poems have the feel of land and history seen in moments of personal definition, seen through the lens of a family. His voice speaks in long fluent lines with both freedom and formal assurance, of the experience of war, and of the war and peace of human affection. It is a voice that praises the voluptuous body of earth and incorporates the sad flotsam of a family, of mortality. At times wickedly funny, at others haunted by the legend and landscape of America, his poems are always politically informed and alert, and our poetry is the richer.” — Robert Morgan, Dark Energy, Chasing the North Star.
"The Work of the Bow is intense, edgy but at the same time serene; it builds and moves like a river. There are poems here so human and alive they will break your heart and end up leaving it better. This is a beautiful book."
--Thomas Lux, To the Left of Time, God Particles
from a series based on Antonio Porchia’s epigrams / music by Aaron Parks