Door to Door


Winner of the 2001 Poets Out Loud Prize
Fordham University Press

Chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa as the winner of the 2001 Poets Out Loud Prize, Door to Door, as Komunyakaa says in his introduction, “beckons the reader to enter worlds of surprising poignancy in a time of the cultivated glib. If these poems at times seem surreal, it is surrealism with a compelling voice, not as an embodiment of linguistic or imagistic tomfoolery, but as a way of unveiling mystery that redeems.”

“A poet of many angles and strategies, Thomas can write about contemporary lust and then suddenly introduce Ötzi the Ice Man, a recently discovered cadaver frozen in the Alps. To write this dangerously requires control … Thomas leaves you awestruck at his variety, spontaneity, tonal changes from high formal to mock outrage, humor and arcane information: ‘all that ice that came so near the sun / and had not been glimpsed since the Sumerians / baked the mud for the ziggurat of Ur / and went down to bathe in the Euphrates.’”

—Brendan Galvin, Shenandoah

“These poems take bold risks, but the connections almost never feel forced; the sheer extravagance of the language, and the metamorphosing consciousness that underlies it, are carefully and precisely managed, never merely showing off. … Like the door-to-door salesman of the title poem, Thomas knows how to get his foot in the door, intrigue and seduce us, and finally take us somewhere completely unexpected. … Thomas is a poet of considerable grace and vision, and his book is a remarkable debut.”

—David Walker, Field

“The poems in this brilliant and urgent first collection traverse the territory between feverish delirium and remarkable sanity. In Door to Door, the lost voices of goddesses as well as salesmen are invoked, and Mozart stands comfortably beside Our Lady of Baby Back Ribs. Robert Thomas is a poet for the 21st century—witty, worried, and ecstatic—and this is a collection that will last.”

—Laura Kasischke

“There’s a lushness of language and imagination in these poems which reminds one of Neruda or Márquez, and beside which much American poetry can seem drab and utilitarian. Robert Thomas’ speakers navigate effortlessly through the amniotic fluid of reverie, a realm where the spiritual and the erotic are always spiraling in surprising directions. Like the astronaut in one of his poems, Thomas looks down on the manifold peculiarities of the floating world with cunning, tenderness and wonder.”

—Tony Hoagland

“Door to Door leaves me speechless. … His manifold details limn the spiritual in the erotic and, perhaps more crucial, the erotic in the spiritual. Like Hopkins, he charges the world with numinous grace.”

—Vince Gotera, North American Review

“Robert Thomas has written an admirable book. He debuts with a distinctive voice that examines the ordinary outside the boundaries of the conventional.”

—Robert Bense, Chelsea

“Robert Thomas … is entranced by language, but he wishes for a more immediate and simultaneous recognition of both the divine beauty of a turn of phrase and the meaning that that phrase conveys. His method relies on the power of the unusual juxtaposition and a striking lyricism that sends a shiver along the sacral vertebra (our holy bone, wherein encased perhaps our sixth and seventh senses lie).”

—Jeffrey Bockman, Literal Latte

“’Come outside for a moment and look at the steel-eyed sun,’ Robert Thomas invites us in the title poem of his accomplished and remarkably promising first collection of poems. What is remarkable about Door to Door is its intensely intimate lyricism. Thomas is at his best in his accounts of human sexual and psychological relationships.”

—Milton “Mont” Welch, Meridian

“Robert Thomas’s Door to Door beckons the reader to enter worlds of surprising poignancy in a time of the cultivated glib. The imagery is original and surefooted, and the book’s pacing is almost mathematical, moving with controlled ease. Many small doors can spring open in a single poem; he ushers us through doors that defy bafflement and orchestrated confusion. Realism and surrealism merge in some of Thomas’s most striking poems, where two or more worlds collide softly—a tableau of twists and turns that always bring the reader to a door where one is invited to see oneself.”

—Yusef Komunyakaa, from the Introduction

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Book cover photo by John F. Martin.