Our Age of Anxiety


Our Age of Anxiety


“When I read Our Age of Anxiety, I feel invited in and swept along. Israeli’s precise, surreal imagery gives me the chills. Same for his diction, which is so sharp and exact it could cut glass. At times, I feel like I have fallen into a painting by Rene Magritte. A man with a dog’s head searches for a fashionable hat. A fox tries on a shirt and pants and pretends to be a man. A lion carries a human baby in its mouth. I admire how, in just a handful of poems, Israeli powerfully evokes the disbelief and terror many people feel at this moment in history, and this undercurrent resonates throughout the collection. Yet after “the last glow worm / shuts off its little bulb” and I’ve finished reading, I feel hopeful—hopeful and grateful a voice like Henry Israeli’s exists.”

—Kathleen McGookey, judge

Our Age of Anxiety radiates a dark equanimity, finality’s ultimate grace. The poems’ wisdom is quietly astonishing, shot through with surreal and measured threads of satire. Much is revealed here about our falling world and human illusion. Cities are re-absorbed back into nature’s grand plan. The problems of suffering and of the dead and their eternal grip on us are sung of as these poems search for and find, among our beautiful ruins, fresh redemptions.”

—Amy Gerstler

Our Age of Anxiety is filled with an anxiety whose company is a true pleasure. These poems enact amazing transformations—everything in the world is capable of changing into everything else, and nothing is too lowly to astonish. A flea beetle attack proves quite alarming! There are also moments of startling surprise here, when Israeli reaches out of the poem to address the reader, to pull you even closer. In this book Eastern European dark playfulness and an American cinematic eye meet up in the middle of a nameless city that has way too many banks for things to turn out well.”

—Matthew Rohrer




Whatever you do

the French did first.

Whatever you say

the French said first.

Whatever you wear

the French wore first.

You see the pattern?

There’s nothing in life

that the French did

not do first. Nothing.

Can you think of anything?

Wrong. The French

did it first. Say what?

The French already said that.

You saw something

original in a film once?

Then you never saw

Renoir or Cocteau.

You read something?

Zola, Baudelaire, Rimbaud,

de Beauvoir, take your pick.

Food? Don’t even go

there, wise guy.

You had a dream

after which you awoke

amazed at the veracity

of your complicated mind?

Get over yourself.

The French dreamt it

long before you.

Everything you’ve done

in the bedroom—

I’ll simply say, the French,

and waste no time

humiliating you further.

Everything you ever

encounter or experience

in this short-long life

you may thank or blame

the French for,

take your pick.


But, for god’s sake,

pity the French, will you?

For they have no one

to praise, no one to fault.

They are doomed to

the boredom of


When a Frenchman

looks in the mirror

he sees no reflection,

nothing whatsoever,

for there’s nothing

to reflect upon.

As the originator of all

he can only,

as Descartes said

more eloquently, be.

A Frenchwoman can

never experience

the joy of being told

she looks French,

for that is a vile

(or as the French

say, vil)  redundancy,

and holds no logic

for the French mind.

It’s like kissing your

own ghost and falling

into an ethereal abyss

of self-referential absurdity,

which is, after all,

typically French.

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