From Epicurus to Sam Cooke, the Daily News to Roots, Digest draws from the present and the past to form an intellectual, American identity. In poems that forge their own styles and strategies, we experience dialogues between the written word and other art forms. Within this dialogue we hear Ben Jonson, we meet police K-9s, and we find children negotiating a sense of the world through a father’s eyes and through their own.
Our hero explains what lines behave as waves
also behave as particles depending upon the presence
of observers, a market of admirers, etc. Think of sifted
sands Tibetan monks spend months to whisk in minutes:
their attack on nostalgia. Think of Milky Ways of water
damage on the bedroom ceiling. The Apollo module
on the dresser and the Ring Nebula is the blur where
Mom tried to clean expletives crayoned on the wall.
Whorls beyond, imagine a can of Krylon ship-shaped
with braided-rubber-band-propeller roped out to
the nosebleeds in the murk of heaven’s hood. The spray
can tags earth’s dewy rooftop with synesthetic stars,
foamy scars that welt the blue and melt like meringue
in the dusk, a residue of light in the periphery. Winged seeds
from silver maples at the feet of unshaven sheriffs
offering fists of baby’s breath. They smile with cigar stubs
plugging the breach. Renegade lines unleash the hounds,
shake the weight of undressed eyes. When some lines try
to pass for the color behind the color they came in, our hero
attempts no intervention. When he orders the lines disperse,
one sheriff’s bullhorn blast unsacks a rain of feathers
“A bright-red thread of fatherhood runs through this book—at times tenuous, at times mythic—always searching and revelatory, grounded in our present moment while wrestling with eternity—a thrilling, brilliant, and deeply moving ride.” —Nick Flynn
“Gregory Pardlo renders history just as clearly and palpably as he renders New York City, or Copenhagen, or his native New Jersey. But mostly what he renders is America, with its intractable conundrums and its clashing iconographies. With lines that balance poise and a jam-packed visceral music, and images that glimmer and seethe together like a conflagration, these poems are a showcase for Pardlo’s ample and agile mind, his courageous social conscience, and his mighty voice.” —Tracy K. Smith
“In an age of poems crafted to resemble linguistic balloon-animals or sheets of floral wallpaper, it is rare to find an American poet thinking seriously about anything. I suppose that’s what makes Gregory Pardlo’s engaged, intelligent poetry, with its exuberant range of cultural and historical reference, feel a bit like stumbling out of the desert to encounter the Nile River. Smart and humane, Digest engages in lyricized textual analysis, playful philosophical exegesis, and satirical syllabi building, even as it evokes a Whitmanesque Brooklyn of the 21st Century that Pardlo inhabits with a ‘neighborknowing confidence and ease.’ These are poems that delight the ear, encourage the heart, and nourish the brain.” —Campbell McGrath
“Gregory Pardlo is a genuine New York poet, one whose associative poems crowd with sound and intellect, varied cultures, shared histories, with high and low and home—or at least the hope of it. But whereas for many of the city’s iconic poets, multiplicity means speed, in Pardlo’s Digest the words bear a great, slow weight, suggesting how much obligation there is in, as George Oppen described it, ‘being numerous.’ In one poem, looking around at the various crowds in Prospect Park, he hungers for ‘the quickening backfill of belonging, the stranger- / facing, the neighbor-knowing confidence and ease / with the ripple that diminishes as it extends / over the vast potential of immovable thirst.’ At its best, Digest registers our indebtedness in intricate pleasures that never let us pull free.”
“Gregory Pardlo has a lot to say, and not just about his own life: Digest (Four Way; $15.95) is dense with the kind of ambitiously abstract language designed to explain, or dissect, ideas, and it is Pardlo’s gift to turn that language into ironic, skeptical, personal poems, either by slicing it up into unlikely rhythms, or by immersing it in daily life.” Read the full review.
“He explores what is American, what is African American, what is the Other, what is city, what is suburban, what is personal and what is persona. Digest offers a changing, rich landscape of verse, both haunting, funny, and rigorously intellectual. It’s an exciting second book from a poet who is quietly crafting an insightful voice and deep portrayal of Americanness and humanity.” Read the full review.
“As a whole, Gregory Pardlo’s Digest is a captivating and even enchanting example of some of the best American poetry being written today. These are poems that edify and refine with their almost pedagogical beauty. They are a showcase not only for Pardlo’s stellar intelligence but also bring to light his fierce sense of play. This is a book to return to again and again with the hope of finding both illumination and general advice for how to live one’s life with dignity.” Read the full review in the May 28, 2015 edition of The Journal.
“This book is very American (Brooklyn, NY especially) and speaks to the American (im)possibilities of being a person who is always searching for a home that is right beneath his feet, mischievously shifting beneath him as history in its three forms of past, present, and future swallow him whole. What the speaker finds in the belly of the American Dream is all the bile and mucus of pop culture, historical trauma, and Eurocentric taste-making, and family tragicomedy, most of which cannot be digested. Get it? Digest? And what happens when we as readers decide to take on what this book has to offer? That is the question. Just because we can chew it doesn’t mean we can process it. That is the risk, a worthy one, of this Gregory Pardlo’s Digest.” Read the full review.