Winner of the 1997 T. S. Eliot Prize
A unique collection of uncompromising poetic portraits written in the tradition of Masters, Robinson, and the verse portraits of Pound and Eliot. Each portrait has a specific, unsettling tale to tell, and the sum total of these poems provides a powerful commentary on contemporary life in the American fin de siècle.
The fearless portraiture of William Baer’s The Unfortunates holds one’s eyes as steadily, as searchingly, as the photographs of ancestors. Here is strong stuff, delivered wholesale from the real world.
This is one of the most deeply unsettling books of poetry I have read in a very long time.
These poems feed the reader’s primary addiction: watching in his own mind, after each last line, as the large explodes out of the small.
—Mona Van Duyn
Sea of Marmara
Breaking and Entering
The Cuban Girl
The Hudson Guild Theatre
Obituary in The New York Times
South Shore Cottage
Main Reading Room
Summer in the Cyclades
The Shipmaster’s Note
This willingness to look outside himself, bringing a wide range of human subjects to the short poem, deserves high praise. The book’s numerological tidiness—thirty-seven poems of two eight-line stanzas, three longer poems containing nine stanzas each of the same length—conveys deliberateness upon these mostly untidy lives.
—The Hudson Review
The Unfortunates is a unique collection of poetic portraits written in blank verse octaves. These poems introduce a wide range of unfortunate inhabitants of the contemporary landscape: a young man attracted to cults, a woman working for a psychic hotline, a housebreaker, a disgruntled librarian, a con artist, a pyrophile, and many more. Each poem has an individual tale to tell, and the sum total of the collection provides a powerful commentary on contemporary life in America.
—Midwest Book Review
Baer’s poetry is composed of brief character studies filled with troubling insights and hard-boiled moral reflections.... Still Baer’s competence is apparent.