Dragging the Lake


“Photographers once risked their hands and eyes, igniting vials of magnesium powder, so powerful is the love of the image,” says the title poem of Robert’s new collection, Dragging the Lake, whose images range from the northern lights to St. Bridget turning bathwater into beer.

“A far-ranging mind made these poems, one in which intelligence and imagination combine in a rare ability to reason with imagery and sound. That may seem a familiar definition of poetic talent, but in these poems it gives the voice an authority that’s both reliable and constantly surprising. Thomas can enter another consciousness, century, or personal history with as much facility as he moves through his own life and world. Thus, although many poems are written in persona, they feel more like an inhabitation than a trick of ventriloquism. Yet for all its interest in the mind’s capacity to travel outside of itself, this is poetry written in the pure American English of the present moment. Dragging the Lake is smart, funny, moving, and profound.”

—Chase Twichell

“Though they differ in style and temperament, Bay Area poet Robert Thomas and Brooklyn resident Harvey Shapiro share a distinctive mastery of voice …. The book’s unifying theme is that of love and music, subtly but effectively emphasized by a structure that suggests sonata form …. Past, present, real, imagined, high culture and pop—Thomas blends them with intelligence and flair.”

Alexandra Yurkovsky, San Francisco Chronicle

“Robert Thomas knows what a frenulum is, and the skills a shoemaker needed in 1623. His range of reference and imagery is wide, including music (classical and popular), history, and the hard sciences, and from these he makes poems unlike anyone else’s. He can be lyrically contemporary, or speak in extended narratives through the personae of Leoš Janácek, Jakob Boehme, and Jacqueline du Pré. Dragging the Lake is richly textured, various, deeply satisfying, and snazzy.”

—Brendan Galvin

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Book cover photo by Josef Koudelka.