Paradise Resisted:

Selected Poems 1978–1984

In Paradise Resisted, Tom Clark has written what he calls “a personal field guide to the contemporary West.” The 160 lyrics collected here are like snapshots from a magical mystery tour  that starts in the cool blue Rockies, barrels through the desert, and at last breaks down somewhere deep in L.A., “as far west as civilization as known can come and still have a pet tarantula.” The Wyoming firmament is wide open like a window into oblivion (“such a threatening space/ what with its great expanse of unaffectionate sky”); Eldora, Colorado, is tremblingly beautiful (“a valley/ of aspens/ and wild flowers/ with the wind/ dithering in them”); Arizona is mainly the sun (“blinding & frontal”) and the highway (“a black unreeling truck lane to eternity”). The rural West is a resistible paradise: Clark feels only loneliness there, the little towns interchangeable, everything built as cheaply as possible. It is only in Los Angeles––the Capital City of Postmodernism, its man-made “canyons of concrete/ the perfect environment for a wild dog”––that he feels at home. It is here that he hopes to evolve, “bark by angry bark,” into an artist “truly representative/ of the American 21st century.”

[The West] is big terrain, and Paradise Resisted is equal to it: a tough, beautiful book . . . This is the real West in our time, as significant as John Ford’s cinematic legends.
––San Francisco Chronicle

Engaging and well-crafted. Clark’s perceptions are swift and keen, and his concise, accessible style combines journalism with symbolism in rhythms that shift from rock ‘n’ roll to be-bop. The main course is ‘Early Warning,’ a 33-page meditation/shout on life, death, writing, and passion that rings in the ear like a Handel oratorio.
––Los Angeles Herald Examiner

Tom Clark was the poetry editor of The Paris Review from 1963 to 1973, one of the prestigious journal’s most important decades. He published his own collections of poetry exclusively with Black Sparrow Press. His numerous literary essays and reviews have appeared in publications  including The New York Times, London Review of Books, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. He has also published six biographies of twentieth-century literary figures. Clark died in Berkeley, California, in 2018.