paper • 86 pages • 17.95
ISBN: 978-1-961897-06-9
eISBN: 978-1-961897-07-6
September 2024 • Poetry

New Vrindaban

Jacob Strautmann

New Vrindaban lives in the disputed territory between the past and present, between the idealistic hopes and complicated reality of creating a better world. An electrifying collision of uniquely Appalachian cultural forces, the formal division of poems into “Side One” and “Side Two” pay homage to the concept albums of 1970s garage rock, while the book’s title alludes to the intentional Hare Krishna community in West Virginia founded in the same era. 

Jacob Strautmann’s latest collection builds an extraordinary temple on the compromised ground — it houses the compressed narratives of varied characters, monumentalizes the beautiful illusions of failed ideas, and remembers the irretrievable innocent love of youth. The music of New Vrindaban is both a ballad of survivor’s guilt and the raucous soundtrack of a record party among friends. It is the “black swift-moving waters,” “the bright clouds unmoored in the wind.”

Mountain Latchkey, 1983

Hellbent for the Blue Ridge Parkway
She never told anyone she was going, 
Never claimed to be in their number, 
Where mystery was a pair of glasses
Thickening on a creek’s wrecked bank. 

Are we, half of us asks, fooling ourselves? 
As the decades sink knotted as snakes 
Fastened in a canvas sack. Needlework
Of sunlight would not slip through these
Polaroids guardian angels under- or 

Overexposed. Newspaper clippings give
No new evidence, creased, unsealed,
Something that looks like her face
On the edge of the frame, always leaving. 
But in this one: at an Airstream’s drop down, 

Moonscape (our best guess) stretched all 
Directions, she watches us, willfully,
Out of the veil of the flashbulb,
Bomber jacket, her Dostoyevsky 
Bangs, all of her cards on the table.

Praise from Todd Hearon
Praise from Meg Tyler

This is one of the strangest, most exhilarating books I have read in a long time, the brainchild of a wildly big and free-ranging imagination.  Jacob Strautmann seems up to nothing short of inventing a new language—aleatory, atonal—for the currents of thought and the syntax of experience.  Word by word, the world is upended in the torsions of metaphor—“as the crack of lightning / Loosens the reins of the sky”—and sharpened in the light of inversion, as “a bird caught the eye’s solitary flight” (my favorite line).  Read New Vrindaban and feel your synapses explode.

These poems walk the earth with the rest of us. Each is deliberate, seeking a way through the detritus, the glory. Narratively dense and lyrically taut, New Vrindaban aims for collision of image and phoneme to create songs from our often-incongruous findings along the way: engine grease, garam masala, scorched walls, “a thought cut like a sprig / Of lilac.” Strautmann’s lyrics cut into and through cliché, revivifying the language.