Small Talk: Poems



Dos Madres Press, 2021
96 pages

“Elegant and intimate… Delbos proves his deep attunement to the natural, and to bright blasts of language.”
–Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

“In his elegant and intimate new collection of poetry, Small Talk (Dos Madres), poet and translator Stephan Delbos, first poet laureate of Plymouth, lands us into the lights of different locales: Berlin, the Balkans, the ‘pliant mouth’ of Plymouth. There’s an oneiric, watchful feel to his lines, as he explores a shifting present, particularly in a long poem centering on his new son. Ash becomes ‘a vacant story for the wind’ and ‘grass / in parks sparks teeth of frost,’ and Delbos proves his deep attunement to the natural, and to bright blasts of language. He’s also alert to the uselessness of language, the moments of beauty, the moments of deep swallowing horror. He writes of the Marathon Boston bombing, the 2011 earthquake in Japan, four boys killed on Gaza Beach, moments of disaster and monstrosity. And he addresses poems to Charles Bronson, students, Michael Jackson, and Solzhenitsyn. Delbos raises good questions, too: ‘What malicious, blessed dreamer / pries us from our common sleep / to see the secret / radiance of the ordinary, / then sets us groping / again among rough stones?'” —Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

“Vivid images from the streets of European cities meet childhood Cape Cod memories meet poetic tributes to Michael Jackson and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and a chilling nursey rhyme style memorial to four boys killed on Gaza Beach… However the highlight and centrepiece of this volume is the extended sequence ‘A Child’s Guide to Candor,’ dedicated to his first child. By turns domestic, nostalgic and hallucinatory, a new father marvels at the wonder of a new life, a new role, and all of the dreams and fears that entails. The surreal strangeness of the early months and years of parenthood are so beautifully captured in this series of segmented poems—a personal celebration of new life in the world that reminds us that the future belongs to our children, in an individual and collective context, something we cannot afford to forget in these volatile times.” Joseph Schreiber, roughghosts

“Some smaller poems… are only three lines long, yet deliver impactful insight by capturing brief moments of solitude and intensity.” —Dave Kindy, The Old Colony Memorial

“In Small Talk, Stephan Delbos has accomplished, if not the impossible, then the highly unlikely feat of fusing a Rilkean Romanticism with something like Bunting’s al dente concision and taut rhythms, a squaring the circle of a 21st century modern lyric that no one could have predicted.  I take great pleasure in it, line by line, whether driven by sharp memories of childhood, or the difficulty of facing the world as a new father; a startling elegy for Charles Bronson, or a subversive homage to Bob Dylan; contemplation of a steel urinal in Dublin, or a door handle in Prague; whether in praise of wind or the winding legends of his native Plymouth;  Delbos’ imagination is populated by the bright objects of the world in an idiom all his own.  With a warmth and humor that’s not afraid to run disabused and cold, Delbos hits the road as a winning  cosmopolitan of the present particular, a surprising troubadour of the now.”  –Joshua Weiner

Stephan Delbos is the first Poet Laureate of Plymouth, MA. His poetry, essays and translations have appeared most recently in Absinthe, Agni, Asymptote, Atlanta Review, BlazeVOX, The Brooklyn Quarterly, EXPOUND, Fourteen Hills, Verseville, The Istanbul Review, Molly BloomNew Letters, Poetry International, Poetry Salzburg Review, Rakish Angel, and Zoland Poetry. He is the editor of From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011). A collection of visual, music-inspired poems, “Bagatelles for Typewriter,” was exhibited at ArtSpace Gallery in Prague in 2012. His play Chetty’s Lullaby, about trumpet legend Chet Baker, was produced in San Francisco. His play Deaf Empire, about Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, was produced by Prague Shakespeare Company in 2017. His co-translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, by Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, was awarded the PEN/Heim Translation Grant in 2015 and was published by Twisted Spoon Press. His co-translation of Nezval’s Woman in the Plural is forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press (2021). He is the translator of Paris Notebook by Czech poet Tereza Riedlbauchová (The Visible Spectrum, 2020); the author of the poetry chapbook In Memory of Fire (Cape Cod Poetry Review, 2016), and the poetry collections Light Reading (BlazeVOX, 2019) and Small Talk (Dos Madres, 2021). He is a founding editor of B O D Y.