Sleepwalker’s Fate:

New and Selected Poems 1965–1991

Published to mark the poet’s fiftieth birthday, this is a landmark book in Tom Clark’s oeuvre: a selection from his first quarter century of writing, from songs of innocence published when he was twenty-five (“Lake Life, I want to take a bath/ In you and forget death”) to lines reflecting the disappointments and compromises of middle age (“While everything external/ dies away in the far off/ echo of the soul/ still there’s a mill wheel turning/ . . . / by some distant stream/ a note of peace/ in a life which/ will never be peaceful”).

The book is divided into two parts: the generous “New Poems, 1986–1991,” which collects recent lyrics mourning the passing of time, the trials of insomnia, the sad politics of poetry, and the sadder poetry of politics; and “Dark Continent, 1965–1986,” Clark’s judicious winnowing of his earlier work (on love, baseball, classicism, jazz, physics, trout kills, popular culture, and Catholic-Zen-antinomian mysticism). Between the two comes a ferocious prose poem, “Diary of Desert War, 1990–1991,” an account of the first Bush’s Middle East war written in the terse, telegraphic style of the Times Square news zipper––that is, of a news zipper in the hands of a surrealist op-ed poet.

Sleepwalker’s Fate is complex, alive in every line, tender, unbearable, and necessary. Every reader of contemporary poetry needs a copy of this book.
––Small Press Review

These nonlinear poems, which delight in wordplay, don’t easily disclose their subjects, but careful readers can discern a focus on appearances (light, shadow, and form) as well as a tenderness verging on eroticism. Initially inchoate references to nationalism and violence eventually coalesce in ‘Diary of Desert War,’ a series of imagistic prose entries that evoke a vague sense of human and machine joined together in vast space amid stars, sunsets, and sand. Highly recommended.
––Library Journal

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.