W.W. Norton. June, 2010. 8.4 × 8.4 in / 112 pages
ISBN 978-0-393-07217-4 Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-393-34269-7 Paperback
“Bar Book nearly knocked me off my metaphoric stool.” —Diann Blakely, The Antioch Review
This exuberant third collection takes inspiration from the metaphor-rich names and recipes of cocktails. Its poems, charts, bar tips, field notes, and clever asides are whipped together to concoct a wholly original modern archaeology of love, redolent of stale cigarettes and veterans of bad wars.
The set is an imaginary bar-cum-battlefield. In it, a barmaid grapples with the irreconcilable tensions in her work and personal life. At work, she’s torn between taking orders and keeping order. At home, she confronts the limits of a service ethos as exemplified by her divorce. Marguerite, the barmaid’s daughter, has a thing or two to say on the subject, for she, like her mother, is trying to create an instruction manual for understanding her own broken experience. Meanwhile, cocktails, barwares, and other bartenders chime in with their own points of view. It’s love, it’s war: what better metaphor for marriage on the rocks?
“When Julie Sheehan takes the lyric poem out for a few drinks, everyone winds up talking fast and loose. The lush, agreeably-out-of-style cocktails who take the stage in Bar Book tell their stories in voices comic, cracked, and aching, and along the way a narrative of lost love—the story behind every solitary monologue over drinks, in one way or another—unfolds, pulling the reader through this artful, wry, and unlikely book’s tales of hearts on the rocks and hearts surviving.”
—Mark Doty, author of the National Book Award-winning Fire to Fire
“Now I know what’s been missing in American poetry – persona poems of great verve and visionary passion, a highball of grief and the fearless sublime stirred (not shaken) with wit and no-nonsense truth-telling. I don’t envy anyone next in line waiting to discuss love and divorce, American style. After trying on Whitman for size and mixing it up with various formal furies, Julie Sheehan has found her voice in that of a modern Tiresias posing as a New York City barmaid, and now no one’s safe, which is exactly what we need: originality mixed with high-octane vulnerability and perverse fury. Good for her, even better for us.”
—Philip Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Failure
“This is an astonishing, bowl-you-over book. Poetry and prose, wit and sentiment flow in and out of one another as Sheehan, our magician of a bartender, mixes heartbreak and instruction, prayer, irony, wisdom, wisecracks, a Shirley Temple and a mudslide. The resulting concoction is life in a tumbler. The drink intoxicates, yet also, oddly, steadies the nerves. Wow.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and The Boy Detective