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  • Written by W.S. Di Piero
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  • Skirts and Slacks
  • Written by W.S. Di Piero
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Written by W.S. Di PieroAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by W.S. Di Piero


List Price: $13.99


On Sale: September 04, 2013
Pages: 80 | ISBN: 978-0-307-55977-7
Published by : Knopf Knopf
Skirts and Slacks Cover

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W. S. Di Piero, a fresh and powerful voice in American poetry, opens this collection about public and private worlds with poems that revisit the deaths of his parents. It is an important adult passage for him, and for them a last chance to leave a message: his father lying in bed, “bemused and contemptuous / of the hell in which he lay”; his mother soon to be laid out in the cheap gold flats “that made her look young and men look twice.” Di Piero writes poems of relationships, of ordinary beauty, of the deep, visceral memories that shape who we become. He reveals the art in the everyday—sometimes literally, as when he spies a Vermeer beauty in a girl with nose studs at the ATM, or van Gogh’s self-portrait in a small-time bookie. Whether describing the uncertainty of sexual love (“. . . your footpads / wet after a bath / left prints like / our conversations / every which way”) or a panhandler in Port Authority (“Show you to your bus / or an excellent candy bar?”), he is delicate and direct at once, a no-nonsense guide to his surroundings who is moved by what he sees. His strong, elegantly simple statements of truths of feeling go beyond the pleasure of the words themselves and restore us to the thrill of honesty in our own lives.


Skirts and Slacks
The .32 Special
its Dutch Masters box,
still in their bedroom
closet, days after
my mother's death,
plus my father's
thirty years ago.
I used to practice
disarming, reloading,
putting it in my mouth
for fun. And so
here it is again,
but (stupid woman,
Great Depression child
scrolling tens and twenties
in macaroni boxes)
loaded, half-cocked.
Oh yes, shoot the burglar
in the closet, the cat
in heat on the fence,
and Calvin Coolidge. She rose,
rammy, close to death,
cocked up in bed
as if pulleyed by heaven,
sometime past midnight.
I was there to watch
her eyes wake for a moment
enraged and hateful toward me.
Bone wooled with slights
of flesh, what certainty
in the body at its end?
And between here and there?
Breath stops, blood fades,
the comic head I'm lifting
from the pillow feels
too merely anatomical
and heavier than before.
W.S. Di Piero|Author Desktop

About W.S. Di Piero

W.S. Di Piero - Skirts and Slacks
W. S. Di Piero was born in South Philadelphia in 1945. He is the author of eight previous books of poetry, as well as three volumes of translation from the Italian. He writes about art for the San Diego Reader and has published three collections of essays and criticism on art, literature, and personal experience. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. He lives in San Francisco.

Author Q&A

Skirts and Slacks, my seventh book of poems, took me over five years to write, though I wasn't aware of writing a book. I was just writing poems which, in time, disclosed to me their themes of devastation and desired restoration. The poems swing coast to coast and are mostly set in cityscapes (the Port Authority; Haight Street; Boston's South End; South Philadelphia) and in distressed interiors (saloon, hospital room, airplane, kitchen, church, train). The materials are all personal, of course, but I'm not really interested in the personal or the confessional. I wanted Skirts and Slacks to enact - in the mixed tones of actual experience - truths of feeling about sexual love, civic disorder, personal and public saneness. I wanted poems which, in the way they sound and taste, play out what it feels like to live in the world as a field of troubled relatedness. I write mostly about hungers and wants, not satisfactions or resolutions.

Useful phrases from the book? In "Oregon Avenue on a Good Day. " I'm looking for "our common deam of the all / and the only this, that's exactly / what I can't find." And in "Add Salt," I'm "still looking / for the invisible life of things."



"Di Piero has a great talent for close description . . . Particularly fine [is] the elegy for his parents, 'White Blouse White Shirt,' which ends on a note authentically sublime. Di Piero's poems cling tenaciously to the real and hold out for something more true; they scour the world to see past it." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A master of impressionistic candlelight, Di Piero is precise and empathetic . . . Between the everyday and the lofty, illuminated by 'mildly crazed words,' these thoughtful poetic compositions combine serious imagery with 'truth in words' . . . Refreshing poetry that gets better with reading." -- Library Journal

"Di Piero consistently injects Kleinzahlerian whimsy into his short lyrics, along with pathos-laden descriptions of depression's quotidian. This solemn attention to nature can mutate into Boccaccio-like satire . . . His ear is a great deal sharper than most poets chronicling their art- and writing-centered lives." -- Publishers Weekly

"W. S. Di Piero's poems have a different relationship to reality from what you find in most other poets' work. When I publish one of his poems about Philadelphia, I get letters from people saying they know the neighborhood he's talking about; sometimes they even know the block he's talking about. When I read his poems about his father and mother and other relatives, I can see them, or hear them speak, or sense the way they moved around and wore clothes and occupied space. Very little contemporary poetry has this quality--this allegiance to something that exists, or existed--and to me it's one of the most valuable functions poetry can have." --Wendy Lesser

From the Hardcover edition.

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