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Laughter of Adam and Eve

Laughter of Adam and Eve

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Jason Sommer


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
88 pages, 6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

Near the beginning, just after the fall, was laughter—at least as Jason Sommer imagines it. In the title poem, Eve catches Adam’s hilarity over what passes for a tree outside of Eden, their laughter a heady combination of longing, defiance, and perhaps even relief, through which they find they now possess “a knowledge of evil that is good,” an understanding that will carry them through life after paradise. Through settings mythical, historical and biblical, through characters that range from Gunga Din to St. Kevin of Glendalough, the poems in this book often search out meaning in the tracing of origins: of a bird’s song, of laughter, of a word, of language itself.  Poems explore the source of the word brouhaha, the song of the “resignation bird,” and the dangerous way a poem of Anna Akhmatova enters the world, under the eyes and ears of Stalin’s secret police, escaping the house arrest its author must endure.

In The Laughter of Adam and Eve, Sommer speaks from a multitude of voices and perspectives, in short, formal lyrics as well as longer free-verse narratives. From the archetypal parents of us all, down through anonymous voices, throughout these pages, women and men speak to—and of—each other, in many roles and relations—as lover and beloved, as child and parent, as dreamer and dreamt of. The poems attempt to travel beyond the traditional binary in search of the common thread that binds us to one another. Perhaps chief among them is story: whether recasting myth so that Pygmalion and Narcissus become a single figure or using an Appalachian tale retold as a message, lover to lover, these poems narrate, while engaging deeply with those special properties that poetry can bring to story.


Jason Sommer’s previous poetry collections are Lifting the Stone, Other People’s Troubles, and The Man Who Sleeps in My Office. He has published translations of Irish language poems and, with Hongling Zhang, Chinese Fiction: Wang in Love and Bondage by Wang Xiaobo and The Bathing Women by Tie Ning. Among other awards, he has won a Whiting Foundation Writer’s Fellowship. He is a professor of English at Fontbonne University in St. Louis.


“The Chinese have a word for it: hsin, heart/mind—and Jason Sommer has it in abundance—a probing intelligence that feels for what it sees, the insight the more acute for its connectedness. Here is a beautifully modulated existential anguish, knowledge from the stunted tree that bears the fruit of exile, an unerring ear for the music of thought, ruefulness, the full monty of candor, an ironic awareness, and most movingly, the avowal of what is beyond irony.”—Eleanor Wilner

“The beautiful and varied poems in Jason Sommer’s The Laughter of Adam and Eve are set at the intersection of skepticism and faith: a faith his skepticism can neither endorse nor undo, and a skepticism his faith can neither accept nor escape. Plainspoken, ferociously and tenderly energetic, enmeshed in history even while it yearns for the miraculous, this is a fabulous book by a fabulous poet who deserves what he has surely earned: a wide and enthusiastic audience.”—Alan Shapiro, author of Night of the Republic.

The Laughter of Adam and Eve begins and ends with the mystery of creation. In a world where time is deep and memory long, these poems stand witness to the miracle of the now, the present emerging constantly out of the disasters of our past. There are no heroes here: ‘all the light / left to us of the tens of thousands’ flickers through images caught in the moment of their disappearance. But in Sommer’s vision, each disappearance gives way to the as yet unseen, forever surprising and new.”—Cynthia Huntington, author of Heavenly Bodies