The Barons

"see the barons / the barons unmade"

The Barons
By Joshua Corey

Available now from Omnidawn Publishing.

The poems of The Barons span ten years of struggle with the spirit of Romance in the face of world-historical catastrophe: 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession. Once again we find ourselves in a waste land stained by spectacle, scabrous and benighted, a landscape populated by opportunists, idiots, amnesiacs, and chumps, unable to comprehend the disaster that has enfolded them. In spite of this the book is haunted by the ancient quest for reconciliation, for some kind of contact with the earth and with other people. From ironic pastoral to black satire to the gates of vision, this book enacts a twenty-first century journey toward an elusive horizon of meaning and the paradox of “freedom’s law.”

Corey’s The Barons offers us a rich, dense, allusive, elusive reading and writing of epic in an American key. In thinking about it as a set of engagements with regard to eco-poetics one may begin to think through the possibilities of empire and scale. If Whitman sang of himself and projected outwards across the continent, assimilating to his vision daisies, men, prairies, in The Barons we might want to think of experiments in form held together by an engagement with the language of the archive as well as the daily language that surrounds us. In its synthesising of past epics we get an insightful take on what exists in the library of epic without ever quite collapsing into the failings of the past, failings that were moral and political as much as they were linguistic.
— R.D. Wood, Plumwood Mountain
Who are these barons? I wonder as I finish up. Seems to me that they’re the overlords of the market, perhaps, whose shadow falls in this book like none other I’ve read. Maybe they’re also just the monsters in your closet that you can’t quite escape if you want a simpler reading. But their elegy, and I think it is an elegy of sorts, a clearing-out, is a fitting way to end this spectacular book of poems.
— Laura Carter, Atticus Review
Joshua Corey’s The Barons is a sprawling collection of poems intent on toeing the line between the profound and the glib, brainy deconstruction and guttural implosion. These poems are like toys cranked up to the point of breaking or like hurricanes whipped into speed and spinning furiously in place.
— Joe Hall, Colorado Review

From the back cover:

Joshua Corey has reinvented the good old-fashioned American avant-garde epic poem (Whitman, Stein, Crane, O’Hara) and thrust it, kicking if not screaming, into the early 21st Century, ‘rescued/by what survives the will to survive.’ The result is thrilling, and unlike any poetry I know.
— John Ashbery
What a wild, satisfying read. Joshua Corey’s The Barons does the good, dangerous, difficult ‘work of open eyes’ in a world as glutted, clotted, dizzying, mysterious, fugue-ed out, maxed-out, and ever-shifting as wherever we are standing right now. This book will take hold of your synapses and re-boot, re-set. Somehow both the future and the ancient are here, all while ‘Dada blows its smoke into me.’
— Gillian Conoley
Could life as we now lead it be one huge Viking funeral? In The Barons Joshua Corey makes us feel such to be the fact. A poetry that glorifies our daily defeats even as it surges with the will to resistance, Corey’s collection, informed by Rilke and Duncan and O’Hara and Hemingway (without being beholden to anyone), refuses compromise with either success or failure. Trapped in ‘televised beds,’ on guard against the temptation ‘to fall in love with your own private wormhole,’ this is work that doesn’t fall for pseudo-public or pseudo-private satisfactions. Neither empty procedural poetry nor obvious lyric, The Barons and other Poems straddles ‘freedom’s law.’
— Leonard Schwartz