You Can’t Be Serious

Ronald Wallace

As the title suggests, Wallace revels in playfulness with this collection of sonnets after the classic Japanese haiku masters. For each poem, the last word of each line, read vertically top to bottom, form a haiku by one of the masters. The poet delights us with wordplay, at the same time skewering our expectations for the pretension or “seriousness” of poetic subjects. And yet, beneath the fun and lightness of tone lie images and observations about our experience of life and the natural world that go deep and continue to resonate long after we’ve stopped reading.

Ron Wallace is the author of twenty previous books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction and criticism. He co-directs the creative writing program at the UW-Madison, and serves as editor of the UW Press Poetry Series which he founded in 1985.

He is currently Halls-Bascom Professor of English and Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry and the recipient of three distinguished teaching awards, and prizes from his previous poetry collections from The Council for Wisconsin Writers, The Society of Midland Authors, and the Wisconsin Library Association. In 2005 he was awarded the first George Garrett Prize of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs for his service to writers and writing.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, he has been a Wisconsin resident since 1972, dividing his time between Madison and a forty-acre farm in Richland County’s Bear Valley.

You Can’t Be Serious is available for purchase through Parallel Press for $10.00. Discounts are provided for libraries, booksellers, and non-profit organizations.

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After Basho

A neighbor we barely knew has died. The
daffodils and crocuses ring their temple
bells. A day too warm for March—a bell-
wether day. The redwings pull out all the stops,
the grackles gang up, a cacophony in the plum tree, but
the neighbor we barely knew has died. The
minister talks about “blessing and mercy,” the sound
of his voice, describing a “better place,” keeps
the birdsong out. In what universe the Lamb of God? On
what planet the Sins of the World? Lord, I’m coming
to believe in the bluebird beatitudes, to tease out
that eternal life has nothing to do with a heaven of
harping angels, has nothing to do with us. The
neighbor we hardly knew has died. Life flowers.