A Brand New Beggar

A. L. Nielsen’s A Brand New Beggar is available in paper from Amazon and as a Kindle edition.

A Brand New Beggar is all about what and how it is to be open, in the field, to A Brand New Beggar_cover-thumbnailthings that are all but imperceptibly piercing—the stuff that awakens us in passing, guiding our passage from overhearing to deep listening. A. L. Nielsen moves through “bursts of land” in tonebursts, like George Lewis’s solo trombone, which can’t keep itself from laughing and crying. His seriality is complicated and full and beautiful; his train is different; he “trains us to read that lost phrase,” which is poetry’s currency, the wealth that derives from a poverty in spirit that, happily, we can learn to share, as the always brand new thing.

A. L. Nielsen is at it again, lighting fireworks under language and capturing the explosions on paper. These poems’ short, deeply enjambed lines will work your brains as much as your eyes. Using every sonic trick in the book—including assonance, consonance, and insistent rhythms—Nielsen stitches together places from Ghana to Nebraska, people from C.L.R. James to Lady Day, and moments from his childhood through his capacious present. Readers of his earlier books will recognize the wicked wit he often turns on politics and culture and will warm to the less familiar (but characteristically wordplay-ful) love poems he includes. Here is a poet who knows what he can do with the genre, and does it—well.

In A Brand New Beggar, poetry has the walking blues. A. L. Nielsen again pursues what Oliver Nelson called “the blues and the abstract truth,” parsing the sundry moods of blues travelers, whether in flight or riding the rails. These lines dig deep in the American grain to remind us of who we are, and who we might be.

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