Put This On, Please

New & Selected Poems

Red Hen Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59709-966-0


William Trowbridge’’s Put This On, Please: New and Selected Poems contains work from all five of his full collections, as well as a group of new poems. In lines that capture the rhythms of everyday speech (with the ghost of meter haunting closely along), Trowbridge follows misfits and outcasts whose ramblings and shamblings reflect our own well-meaning gropes for fulfillment. These reader-friendly poems draw often from classic films and other elements of popular culture—from Buster Keaton to Chuck Berry, from King Kong to Wile E. Coyote. Trowbridge is not squeamish about exploring the darker side of humanity, as seen in poems about the Kiss of Death delivered by Michael Corleone in The Godfather II or about Nebraska mass murderer Charles Starkweather. Capping off the book, a group of new poems takes a fresh look at old themes, sounding deepened notes of both melancholy and celebration. Throughout this seriocomic account of human foibles, vices, and wonders, Trowbridge makes a strong case for laughter as the only appropriate response to our post-post-modern condition.
Plunging head first into the colorful waters of popular culture, William Trowbridge manages to find there are ways to reiterate some of the basic stuff of lyric poetry. His gathered poems combine pointed social criticism with just plain verbal fun.
Billy Collins

To call William Trowbridge a plain-spoken poet is accurate and one of his great virtues: he is unafraid of being understood. He is also a master of metaphor and, one never doubts the honesty of his poems, his voice. His poems speak, oh they speak! What he does is very hard to do and he does it brilliantly.
Thomas Lux

William Trowbridge’s has been a life lived in poetry. It seems to emanate from him like a pine scent from the forest. And how wonderful to have these poems all together, to experience the range of subjects—from the Frog Prince to old movies to boogie-boarding in the California surf. The breadth of tone and style is equally impressive, as the wry meets the elegiac or the subtleties of rhyme and meter salute the adventurous vers libre. Here’s a book to relish and return to.
Nance Van Winkel

For the present commentator, the work of William Trowbridge across the past three decades, centering on deep Midwestern experience and encounters with mass media, has been cause for celebration, one of the best things about American poetry. He brings unwavering receptivity and artistic control to the rhythms and tonalities of American experience, and his transmutations of that control into language are incontestably and wonderfully his own. His new-and-selected Put This On, Please — “this” being a hospital gown — does nothing to change that. The book is another American triumph for this marvelous writer.
Richard Simpson

Tar River Poetry

A new and selected offers a chance to track a poet’s development, and in ˆ we see how Trowbridge has evolved into a significant and rare source of levity and irony combined with gravity … As mortals of a capricious god, we need this book. Sure to win Trowbridge new readers and more accolades, Put This On, Please offers the carapace of comic relief against what we know of fear and cannot understand.
Jo McDougall

The Georgia Review

Each poem invites us to walk with Trowbridge down the dangerous path of the seriocomic, where we encounter a series of stunning tonal shifts and masterful manipulations of of psychic distance. The beauty of this work is enhanced by sincerity and empathy. Trowbridge’s technical and emotional gifts create a bond of trust with readers, making us want to move with him and bear witness as he exposes our human desires for tame, recognition, acceptance, and love.
Sharan Ballam

New Letters

To say that Trowbridge is serious and funny — a seriocomic poet — is to risk suggesting that these poems are only kinda funny and sorta serious. These poems, however, are as humorous and entertaining as anything you’ll find in a comedy routine, and they manage to be deeply serious, never flinching when the joke’s delivered with a left hook. For no good reason, we have been taught to separate intellectual inquiry from humor, as though somehow purifying the former from the latter … But the best humor, as in Trowbridge’s work, bulges with laughter and philosophical gravity, often helping us laugh at our own clumsy superiorities.
Gary Dop

Green Mountains Review

Put This On, Please

Cut from dime-store cotton,
fastened from behind
at the neck, designed
for easy access
to your nakedness,

it’s issued in exchange
for your clothes and valuables,
when they’ve checked if you
can pay, the trick to tying it
their little secret.

It may sport stripes or flowers,
though most are plain
as winding sheets. If soiled,
it can be cleaned or simply
tossed, your robe

for the mute choir that haunts
the halls, wheeling its tubes
and I.V.s, or tosses in sleep
or just stares dully, draped
in this chilly birthright.

first published in 5am


We Real Old

The Canasta Players:
Seven at Autumn’s Gold

We real old. We
bell-tolled. We

dilate. We
stagflate. We

sing thin. We
shake Schwinn. We

shit-doled. You
stuff gold.

first published in New Letters


Mr. Fix-It

Cursed by the broganed gods who govern tools,
my father turned Laocoon with power cords

and garden hoses, Blind Pew with drills
and hammers. Screws talked back, nails went

rubbery, saws turned piraña. He’d sweat,
fumble, curse his way through the gauntlet

of “Directions,” jamming a half-inch bolt
in the hole for a quarter-inch dowel, joining Tab A

to Extension N, skipping the ambiguous
Step 5a. “God damn it,” he’d declare

to the unresponsive skies; “lousy son of a bitch,”
he’d save for our electric mower, whose cord

he’d sever every other turn. A combat vet
with two Bronze Stars, he soldiered on

till the day he bought the canister of “Gro-Brite,”
advertised to turn your lawn “lush

as the greens at Pebble Beach.” An I.E.D.
in his uncertain grip, it worked by pumping air

to force the liquid out the nozzle. He took
the contents in the face, the metal lid

grazing an ear. There was no talk at dinner,
only the A.C. chuckling under the window.

first published in Plume

New Letters on the Air: Poetry reading at Rockhurst University

Listen at New Letters or at PRX. Missouri Poet Laureate (2012-2014) William Trowbridge is the third person appointed since the creation of the position in 2007. In this reading at Rockhurst University’s 2014 Midwest Poets Series, Trowbridge reads poems from his numerous books that are now included in his collection of new and selected poems, Put This On, Please. He shares his “Unofficial Missouri Poem” as well as his nod to Gwendolyn Brooks with his poem “We Real Old,” and reads works about his childhood, his father, and his own parenting experiences. Trowbridge also discusses his previous collections of poetry in this 2011 interview....