Growing up in Brooklyn, Richard Michelson’s experiences were
far from ordinary, yet they remain too much a part of the greater
circle of poverty and violence, to be dismissed as merely private
concerns, safely past. In Battles and Lullabies, he writes out of
memory and grief, worry over his wife and children, and the recurring
clashes between love and cruelty that test wisdom with suffering,
day after day.
“'Life is not poetry,’ says an old woman in Richard Michelson's Battles and Lullabies. The poems of this book ask with urgent eloquence how the sweetness of life can be sheltered from the terrors of our time, and what art can make of such a world as ours. Michelson's poems are artful, humane and true."
—Richard Wilbur, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
"Michelson's allusions to his personal history in terms of the artistic struggle make the book a touching masterpiece. It is accessible, honest, funny, moving and one of the best poetry books I've read in many years."
—Marion Fischel, The Jerusalem Post (read the full review)
Michelson’s poems are wounded and raw and honest, intriguing in their sincerity and profundity. Overall, the poet attempts to honor the memory of the past without negating or neglecting the value and purpose of the present. As incongruous as our human longing may sometimes seem in grim circumstances, our desires for sex and art and children and beauty do serve a grander purpose: they are opportunities to glimpse flashes of brilliance in a seemingly pitch-black world.
—Elizabeth Stansell, South Carolina Review (read the full review)
An acute awareness of Jewish history with its ancient emphasis on the fundamental worth of human life is a significant element of any Michelson book...Whether seen through the lens of Jewish history, personal history, or art history, this question resonates: How does one act responsibly in a world balanced precariously on the edge of despair and ruin?
—Jeannie Braham, New England Watershed (read the full review)
Richard Michelson is a well-known writer of children's books and the recipient of several poetry awards. His poems have been described as witty, shrewd, and beautifully modulated. Yes, they are that, but also shattering, powerful and, occasionally, gently erotic.
—Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review (read the full review)
"In Battles and Lullabies, Michelson questions the very act of writing as against the exigencies of Eros and death, and does this with a mix of artistic authority, verve, toughness, humor, and often with extraordinary tenderness. He has captured the spirit and deep abiding spirituality of three millennia and more of Jewish experience: the tragedy, yes, as in teaching his son to count to six million as a fitting Kaddish for the dead, but even more importantly, the vigor and resiliency of his beloved tribe. Beyond that there is a bracing understanding of the beauty and dynamic force of human sexuality. All of this is caught in a language which continually refreshes and surprises at every turn. Here in Michelson’s work is a complex, self-examining ars poetica, and–even more importantly–a viable and celebratory ars vitae as well."
—Paul Mariani, poet, and biographer of W.C. Williams, Hart Crane, Robert Lowell, John Berryman and Gerard Manley Hopkins
"I greatly admire Michelson’s poems: witty, shrewd, rapidly turning on a dime in some cases, and in others beautifully modulated in delicate shades of elegy."
—Anthony Hecht, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
"Michelson wonders how people can continue to love after tragedy…Readers who can give Battles & Lullabies the time it deserves will notice an almost Joycean framework…"
—Menachem Wecker, The Jewish Press
Beyond the accessibility and freshness of Michelson's language, beyond his honesty and humor, beyond the vulnerability and humanity that renders a reader willing to go where he leads, a great gift of this book is his indomitable yes.
—Bonnie Wells, Daily Hampshire Gazette