Wasteland Honey | signed by author


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WASTELAND HONEY: POEMS offers to us the living and dying world with which we contend—or to which we surrender. He speaks of the devils who rob the earth, but he makes a place in his verse for the “rose-clean, vigorous, fragrant.” Contrasting tempers and riddling parables are framed by rhythms and fluency of diction that achieve a unique formal structure for each poem. Robert Clinton’s arresting and eccentric metaphors linger, like the burning touch of a thistle.  

“Clinton’s language bears the stamp of pure poetry: well-wrought syntax, sudden juxtapositions, and especially a compelling musicality.” 

Delicious paradoxes are the very texture of Robert Clinton’s refreshing and consistently surprising  WASTELAND HONEY, just as paradox and self-contradiction are all too often the texture of our oxymoronic lives. Like his “venomous anemones,” Clinton’s poems stimulate our taste buds while they unfailingly—even ruthlessly—keep our minds and hearts both off balance and alert. —Lloyd Schwartz, Who’s on First?,  Pulitzer Prize winner in Criticism

Robert Frost wrote, “If it’s a wild tune, it’s a poem.”  Robert  Clinton’s WASTELAND HONEY is loaded with wild tunes. When they are sung in the service of an immediately recognizable subject they knock your socks off, and when they’re ambiguous they stir your curiosity.  — Michael Ryan (Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize), New and Selected Poems

With grateful nods to his biblical rhythms and fables, we enter Robert Clinton’s new collection. The speaker is in keen touch with the outdoors, both its hardships and its balm. Schopenhauer wrote, “The fullness of meaning and significance in music’s language is revealed in its repetition signs… for to comprehend music fully, we must hear it twice.” WASTELAND HONEY is well worthy of repeated readings. — Sarah Gorham, Alpine Apprentice and Study in Perfect

The combination of heart-on-sleeve humanity with linguistic happiness offers the full range of poetic pleasures. Robert Clinton’s poems take chances and get away with it. They are the work of a thoroughly sophisticated and original mind. — Linda Bamber, Metropolitan Tang: Poems; Taking What I Like: Stories; and Tragic Women, Comic Men: A Feminist Analysis of Shakespeare’s Plays

Loosen the girdle of your expectations and give yourself over to the lush sound/sense of WASTELAND HONEY’s magical world. You won’t be disappointed you did. — Mark Pawlak, My Deniversity: Knowing Denise Levertov; editor Hanging Loose.

In WASTELAND HONEY’S startling and powerful poems, magical women, talking flowers, and other surreal images mingle with all-too-real signs of a world gone askew. Extinctions have happened, are happening, will happen, and “every life is a loss to come.” But in tonal tension with the wasteland of this excellent book’s title is the honey. Sweet is the hope that sees a creek where barbed wire runs, sweet the language that makes familiar things glow amid the wreckage.  — Pamela Alexander, Slow Fire



Here’s a bucket full of water from our old rain barrel,
and there’s sliced black bread in the safe. Tonight
you can have your bed solo, or stay here and love me.

With me you’ll be thirsty in a while and need to drink.
There’s a cupful of rain barrel water on the chair near
the bed. You’ll be hungry, not wanting to eat all of me,
and there’s a loaf of black bread and jam in the safe.

If you sleep solo, with a thimble of water, I’ll know stair-
flights away how sadly you rest, how sorry you’ll wake.
Narrow in your bed, if you’re mud-deep in loss I’ll know:
you’ll take just the crust and the seeds. I won’t stir

from my housekeeping: making the bed like a fortress.
Later in candlelight I’ll watch you asleep and I think
you’ll watch me. After sunrise we’ll swim, we’ll walk all
the fences. You’ll cinderella me; I’ll get the ladder that

tops the thorn trees. I’m rose-clean, vigorous, fragrant.
In my mouth still are sweet drops from the rain barrel.
The moon will whiten these dusty sheets: indeed it will.




About Robert Clinton

Robert Clinton, poetRobert Clinton is author of Taking Eden (Sarabande Books) and Wasteland Honey: Poems (Circling Rivers), and his poetry has appeared in Wisconsin Review, Decomp, Antioch Review, Stand, Plume, and The Atlantic, among other journals. Born and raised in upstate New York, he has an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College, and has twice been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. He holds the 2022 W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize, W.B. Yeats Society of New York.