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Chess Pieces

From handling of the chessmen you infer the secret springs of human character. To pluck the enemy chessman between your fingers and replace it with your own reveals the cultivated, well-bred killer who cannot stand the sight of blood; knock the chessman over with a small click of wood on wood tells of an aesthetic craving for the fatal instrument, of one more passionate than violent; to push the piece from its intended square is signal of aggressive character and plainly indicates that power is the motive for committing murder; some will hold the captured piece and caress it nervously: these kill from cowardice; those who seem apologetic, taking pawns reluctantly, kill for noble reasons; and he who clears the board with one great sweep of his hand will kill from lack of hope, defeated by the prospect of defeat, as did my father only death could mate.
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"These poems play games with the world, or they appear to. Perhaps the world is playing its own kind of joke on us through the genial agency of David Solway's Chess Pieces. One might mistake this enterprise for a manual for poetical grand masters - did these poems not so precisely mimic the games our lives play, and so tearfully evoke the dreadful stakes we play for. They are true poems, and their play releases powerful forces." Peter Davison, poetry editor for The Atlantic Monthly. "I have enjoyed David Solway's poems for decades, and am glad to see a new collection; glad, too, to find that these Chess Pieces are wholly accessible to one whose grasp of the game is primitive. Here, as always, Solway writes with a Gravesian dash and brio, taking (and giving) pleasure in a fine vocabulary, a gift for surprising figures, and a striking breadth of reference." Richard Wilbur. "I've long wanted to learn just enough chess to call myself, accurately, a patzer. Now I have another reason: in order to appreciate more fully David Solway's grand-masterful poems. For the nonce, I'm content to admire Chess Pieces simply for its art, , which is (to steal one of Solway's lapidary lines) "towering, valorous, cardinal, majestic." Ben Downing, Managing Editor of Parnassus.

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