- Series: LSU Press Paperback Original
- Paperback: 80 pages
- Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (February 16, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080713760X
- ISBN-13: 978-0807137604
- To purchase, click HERE.
Stephen Cushman’s Riffraff embodies the spirit of its title, a Middle English word for “every particle” or “things of small value.” In this striking collection, scraps of the overlooked, and distasteful—a prostitute passed in the street, the speaker’s own forgotten dreams, toothless dogs rolling in deer offal—become occasions to meditate on the rich experiences from which we too often turn away.
The poems reflect on the possibilities of language, the natural world, politics, history, eros, aging, family, and spiritual devotion. Without pretension, Cushman values “adepts who can dwell in the kiosk of a kiss.” Skillfully, he transmutes his own curiosity and surprise into moments of shared instruction. “Keep low,” he whispers. “Stay put. / Learn from the leaves.” Riffraff culls what we have discarded, saves from abandonment the notions we have taken for granted, and, indeed, venerates every particle.
“… his poems, accessible as they are, never shirk complexity…. They are so exceptionally well-constructed that they almost beg to be memorized.” —Image Journal
“… you may find yourself making your own unexpected discoveries of fullness, whether in an overlooked spot or in an object that had previously seemed useless, the merest riffraff.” — Books & Culture
“Cushman writes quite frankly of sex and desire, creating scenarios where readers bump into embarrassing reminders of their own humanity.” —Virginia Libraries