American Ghost Roses

In his first book as the poet laureate of Illinois, Kevin Stein shoulders an array of poetic forms, blending pathos, humor, and social commentary. These poems - ranging from meditative narratives to improvisational lyrics - explore art's capacity to embody as well as express contemporary culture. Stein embraces subjects as various as his father's death, magazine sex surveys, Kandinsky's theory of art, the dangling modifier, Jimi Hendrix's flaming guitar, racial bigotry, and a teacher's comments on a botched poem. Presiding over this miscellany are ghosts of a peculiarly American garden of dreamers and beloved misfits, those redeemed and those left fingering the locked gate.


"Kevin Stein's new collection is comprised of elegies - elegies of an unusual sort and of the highest order. Above all, these poems mourn, with tenderness and dignity, the death of a father. But the poems are also an elegy for the baby-boomer generation and look back upon the 1960s and 1970s with a canny retrospection. Stein's writing is steeped in popular culture, invoking everything from Bob Marley's toe to ICBMs, yet Stein's haunted and affecting poetry scrupulously avoids sentimentality - as well as the glib hymns to kitsch which have come to so afflict our verse. His 'Search for Lost Time' is conducted with honest self-appraisal and impeccable craft. American Ghost Roses is a superb book."

—David Wojahn

University of Illinois Press 
(April 2005)
Urbana and Chicago

Buy the book