- Autumn 1994
- ISBN 978-0-921870-28-9 (0-921870-28-0)
- 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 108 pages
As the title implies, Dementia Americana is about the craziness of America. In what he describes as “the most personal writing I have ever done,” Keith Maillard meditates upon the implications for private life of the two most bizarre wars of our time: the Gulf War and the Vietnam War. Working within traditional closed forms, but stretching them to their limits, Maillard recreates the effect of the past and the persistence of dream in the public arena.
The book concludes with a long poem in verse about the first of America’s enormous, spectacular murder trials: the Thaw trial of 1906. Each of the protagonists speaks directly to the reader: Stanford White, the murdered man, Harry Thaw, the murderer, and the eerily beautiful Evelyn Nesbit who was the “woman in the case.” Through his recreation of the trial, Maillard reveals America’s dark obsession with youth, purity, style and violence. His presentation of the past within the present (and not passed over) creates a possible overcoming of the darkness.
“In Dementia Americana Maillard puts the emotional extremes of America under the knife. The surprise is the song, an icy mountain stream of language that spills through forms as old as Ovid and Petrarch: it is human, sorrowful, cruelly acute.”
— Marilyn Bowering
“Maillard’s poetry documents loss of innocence — personal, in the collage of his own past, and cultural, in the moral ambiguities of a scandalous murder trial. While hinting as the possibility of a perfect order and simplicity, Millard never reduces the fullness of life remembered or recreated.”
— Derk Wynand
Winner of the 1995 Gerald Lampert prize for best first book of poetry