50 Water Dreams
Siwar Masannat is an Arab writer from Amman, Jordan. She graduated from Jordan University in 2009 with a B.S. in Pharmacy. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from George Mason University in 2012. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Siwar is a co-founder of Gazing Grain Press, an inclusive feminist chapbook contest funded by the Fall for the Book literary festival. Her poetry collection, 50 Water Dreams, wonCleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Award.
"As critic Jacqueline Rose says of Mahmoud Darwish, here is a poetry that writes back. Fragmentary by nature, this innovative dream sequence speaks across borders, interrogating the language of power relationships and singing toward a longed for home. These clips of language beg for recovery, for coherence in a world unlikely to cohere. 'What is causality, / for x to lead to y? What / is loss of land?' asks Masannat in 50 WATER DREAMS, her essential debut."—Sally Keith
"How rare and exhilarating it is, in our time, to find a book that is both wildly inventive and daring in its style and incredibly compelling in its content! 50 WATER DREAMS takes us on a book-long journey of Fadia and Ishmael and a mysterious horse that keeps the house company ('horse that humanizes the house,' 'horse that may keep the house from dying'). The romance here is this: Fadia's father was a dead man forced to go home on foot & Ishmael's mother exiled. What happens in this book? Cruelty and passion and heartbreak become a myth for our times of conflict. How lucky we are to find a poetry debut that isn't afraid of ideas, of mysteries, of politics, of passion. How brave she is to say 'I saw nobody coming so I went instead.' And to dare us: 'I want to put you in my revolution.' Like Zbigniew Herbert, this poet wants 'to hide you in my eyelids & the nation,' like Venus Khoury-Ghata, she makes a mythological pastoral, a book of voices that speak for more than one person."—Ilya Kaminsky
"50 WATER DREAMS beckons us into a mysterious world of broken tesserae, a dispersed mosaic the reader must puzzle over to reconstruct. What we discover, as the pieces begin to fit, is that Siwar Masannat subversively flips the script of scripture, and invites us to re-read what we thought we knew as the story of a land called 'holy.' In her words, 'Fadia, I say I dare not blink. If I could, / hide you in my eyelids & the nation, / too.' If peace is to come between Israelis and Palestinians, it may require this sort of utter recasting and frame-breaking. An auspicious and unblinking debut!"—Philip Metres
I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky
Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev
Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky was born in the Ukrainian city of Elisavetgrad (now Kirovohrad) in 1907 and moved to Moscow in 1923, working as a newspaper journalist and publishing his first poems. By the late 1930s, he had become a noted translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other Asian poets. During the Second World War, he served as a war correspondent for the Soviet Army publication Battle Alarm from 1942 to 1944, receiving the Order of the Red Star for valor. Tarkovsky’s first volume of his own poems, Before the Snow, emerged in 1962, when the poet was 55, and rapidly sold out. His fame widened when his son, the internationally-acclaimed filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, included some of his father’s poems in his films. He died in 1989, just before the Soviet Union fell.
Philip Metres is the author and translator of a number of books and chapbooks including Sand Opera (Alice James Books, 2015), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode Press, 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine Press, 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront Since 1941(University of Iowa Press, 2007). His work has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, the PEN/Heim Translation grant, a Russian Institute for Literary Translation grant, and the Creative Workforce Fellowship. He is a professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland.
Dimitri Psurtsev, a Russian poet and translator of British and American authors, is a professor at Moscow State Linguistic University and lives outside Moscow with his wife Natalia and daughter Anna. His two books of poetry, Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notepad, were published in 2001 by Yelena Pakhomova Press and translations of his poems were published by the Hudson Review in 2009 and 2011. In 2014 Dimitri received, along with Philip Metres, a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky.
"Tarkovsky now joins the ranks of Mandelstam, Akhmatova, and Brodksky. Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev’s translations—succinct and allusive, stingingly direct and yet sweeping, mournful and celebratory—are marvels." —PEN/Heim citation
"How does one translate the work of Russian classic, Arseny Tarkovsky? Imagine trying to translate Yeats: high style rhetoric, intense emotion, local tonalities of language, complicated historical background, the old equation of poet vs. state, the tone of a tender love lyric, all meshed into one, all exquisite in its execution—and all so impossible to render again. And yet, one tries. In the case of Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev, one tries brilliantly, with gusto, with passion, with attentiveness that is akin to that of a prayer, with the ear of real poets. The result? The gravity and directness of Tarkovsky’s tone is brought into English without fail, it is here, honest and pained, piercing and even shy at times, like a deer that looks straight at you before it runs. Tarkovsky’s ambition was to seek us—those who live after him—through earth, through time. He does so in this brilliant translation." —Ilya Kaminsky
"Arseny Tarkovsky was ten years old at the time of the Russian Revolution and died six months before the opening of the Berlin Wall. He spent his career as a poet creating elegant and starkly interior transfigurations of simple happiness and pure grief, triumphs of the individual self against the brutal realities of daily life in wartime and Communist Russia. Through this meticulous translation of his work, readers will encounter a metaphysical complex poetry, at once searing and brooding, very much in dialogue with such great Soviet poets as Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova. Tarkovsky writes of a country where 'we lived, once upon a time, as if in a grave, drank no tea' but still succeeded in making 'bread from weeds,' where the 'blue sky is dim' but nonetheless manages to be the 'wet-nurse of dragonflies and birds.'" —Michael Dumanis
Broc Rossell is from California and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he teaches poetry writing, literature, and interdisciplinary courses in culture and theory for the English and Humanities departments at Simon Fraser University. His work has appeared in 1913, Boston Review,Denver Quarterly, Fence, Harvard Review, jubilat, iO, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Laurel Review,Volt, and other places.
"'The glass of water / on the table is / what's possible,' observes Broc Rossell, 'a little / flood / of elegance, / a recital.' The same could be said of Festival itself. This is a book of defamiliarizations, a recital of phenomenological possibility aflood in its own formal elegance, like a glass of water made prismatic and strange. Threading through the Halloween parade of Aaron Cardella's spectral artwork, the speaker of this collection leads us 'From leaf to branch / From branch to figure / From figure to ground / From ground into darkness,' where the catabasis of perception both ends and begins. Follow this guide and you'll find yourself 'in the center of the word Now, / in the center of the letter O,' at the point-blank degree zero of poetry."—Srikanth Reddy
"A striking momentum drives this careful, meditative long poem in which the I strives to coincide with its body amid the rife overflow of the world. And it is that overflow, in all its vivid detail, that gives this work its deep wealth and visionary range. The attention to the world paid here, whether despairing, reminiscent, documentary, or jubilant, is always an act of applied love, a celebration of the passing present; every line rings with that commitment."—Cole Swensen
"I write in praise of Broc Rossell, who writes in his own praise: 'scrap wire, aging automaton, / wastrel bumblefuck.' A poet of praise with a tongue sharp enough to cut space. I take his celebration to be sincere, although his tone is subdued, even mournful at times, and the sweetness of the images is tempered by darkness, as in a fairy tale. Is he criticizing every wrong thing, as Dave Hickey once suggested, by 'praising it in the wrong way'? Or have the right things never been duly celebrated before?"—Aaron Kunin
Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles
Lee Upton is the author of The Tao of Humiliation: Stories, the essay collection Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition Boredom Purity & Secrecy; the novella The Guide to the Flying Island; and a fifth collection of poetry, Undid in the Land of Undone. She is a professor of English and the writer-in-residence at Lafayette College.
"Lee Upton is a poet of rare intelligence and craft. She has a cold eye and a warm heart, and her poems are well-made, moving, intellectually stimulating. Among my favorites in BOTTLE THE BOTTLES THE BOTTLES THE BOTTLES, her admirable new collection, are poems that resemble an unconventional verse essay on a subject disclosed in the poem's title. Anyone who has spent dreary hours in time-consuming meetings will enjoy Upton's transmutation of the experience in 'The Committee.' A meditation on 'The Defeatists'—people whose reflexive mantra is 'we're not out of the woods yet'—includes the paradox that even their search for disappointment is bound to result in failure. In 'Modesty,' Scheherazade, the 'patron saint of suspense,' beguiles her tyrant with her tales, though 'At some level // she could do nothing for him.' This thought is capped off with the stunning couplet that ends the poem: 'Neither could have / Chekhov.' These are poems to read, reread, and ponder. The rich heritage of English poetry—Herrick, Keats, Poe, Dickinson, Wallace Stevens—hovers over Upton's labors and adds an extra layer of wit for the discerning reader."—David Lehman
"These poems have tensile strength and pleasurable intelligence. They're muscular and ironic. Some are tough minded and thistle-prickly (as Flannery O'Connor was tough and prickly, also with a dash of Plath). The swallowed violence in fairy tales and 'the romantic' is reimagined here. Female archetypes are one of Upton's touchstones: Pandora, Salome, mermaids, Lady Macbeth, Persephone. The poems interrogate ways we used to live versus what we're in the grip of now. And they question what beauty is, in a voice both droll and fierce. They give off a dark gleam."— Amy Gerstler
Lizzie Harris has lived in southern Arizona, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Her poems have appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Barrow Street, Painted Bride Quarterly, Phantom Limb, and VICE.com. She holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and New York University where she taught undergraduate creative writing and led a workshop for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently she resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a poetry editor for Bodega Magazine.
“Lizzie Harris’s debut collection, Stop Wanting, crafts images and lines of such arresting splendor that I am very often driven to joy at the feats of beauty and healing that language is capable of bringing into being.” –Tracy K. Smith
“Lizzie Harris’s Stop Wanting is an unflinching book about a girlhood filled with violence, doubt, vulnerability, and loss. These gorgeously crafted and hauntingly memorable poems are a bleak place full of life, prayer, and the kind of answers only poems like these can provide.” –Rachel Zucker
“To what or whom does Lizzie Harris direct the imperative title of her startling first book, Stop Wanting? To the reader, the narrator, to desire itself, or to lack? This is a work of complexly, ambiguously layered narratives and identities. The opening poem asserts I want to say what happened / but am suspicious of stories. These lines become an ars poetica for the whole of this painful and exceptional collection in which the unspeakable is stubbornly confronted by a searing eloquence. This is a commanding debut.” –Lynn Emanuel
“With ferocity and extraordinary craft, Lizzie Harris has made a book of poems that resonates far beyond the personal stories it tells. Stop Wanting reveals, in every lyric, its author’s profound metaphorical gifts. In its ironies and intensities, it brings to mind a writer like the young Sylvia Plath, though what is startling about Harris’ s work is the way it combines those gifts with a muted, deft self-awareness. Most of all, these are wonderfully shaped, powerful, and surprising poems—a startling debut.” –Meghan O’ Rourke
Chloe Honum is the author of The Tulip-Flame, selected by Tracy K. Smith as winner of the 2013 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, among other journals, and have been anthologized in Best New Poets 2008 and 2010. A recipient of a 2009 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Honum has also received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kerouac House of Orlando, and the Djerassi Artists Program. She was born in Santa Monica, California, and was raised in Auckland, New Zealand.
“Chloe Honum’s brilliant first book The Tulip-Flame traces an identity forming within radically divergent but interlocking systems: a family traumatized by the mother’s suicide, a failed relationship, the practice of ballet, a garden—each strict, exacting. And with ‘a crow’s sky-knowing mind,’ Honum in every case transfigures emotion by way of elegant language and formal restraint. Chloe Honum is ‘one astounding flame’ of a poet, and I predict a long-lasting one.” –Claudia Emerson
“I am so very taken by the exquisite power and grace in every single one of these poems, so arresting in their honesty and in their unflinching ability to scour the world for image after indelible image.” –Tracy K. Smith
“Chloe Honum’s first book is stark and haunting and hard to put down. I read it in one straight blaze like a novel, then found myself living in its glimmers for weeks.” –Christian Wiman
A Boot's a Boot
Lesle Lewis’s books include Small Boat (University of Iowa Press, 2003), Landscapes I & II, (Alice James Books, 2006), and Lie Down Too (Alice James Books, 2011). Her poems have appeared injubilat, The Massachusetts Review, Barrow Street, Sentence, Mississippi Review, American Letters & Commentary, Bateau, and many other journals. She lives in New Hampshire and teaches at Landmark College in Vermont.
Lesle Lewis’s books include Small Boat (University of Iowa Press, 2003), Landscapes I & II, (Alice James Books, 2006), and Lie Down Too (Alice James Books, 2011). Her poems have appeared injubilat, The Massachusetts Review, Barrow Street, Sentence, Mississippi Review, American Letters & Commentary, Bateau, and many other journals. She lives in New Hampshire and teaches at Landmark College in Vermont.
“There isn’t another poet imagining and delivering poetry as Lewis does. What she thinks and how she lets us into her thought stirs up one’s imagination, invites us to be as alive as her thoughts are, and shows us once again what poetry can do when we let it roam as the feral thing it is. She takes fate and time and talks to them about love and inevitable grief. I love this book, her poems never fail to mesmerize.” –Dara Wier
“Lesle Lewis’s back-country-New-England sense of humor gains intensity from an attunement to the moonlit mysteries of disappeared loved ones without ceding any of her unique perplexity. The lines and lives are delimited with chronic end-stops, saturating the poems with infectious, pensive music. Maybe the puzzle of our shared world is ultimately grammatical, and the baffling specificity of every lived moment awaits the arrival of a keyword to unlock its sense: a simply sufficient pronoun. As we read early in A Boot’s a Boot, ‘We imagine a pronoun that says some people sometimes and sometimes includes ourselves.’ I love this book!” –Jon Woodward
“Lesle Lewis is one of the unique voices of American poetry today. Her poems are at once abstract and intimate, wryly witty and sad, real and surreal. In poem after poem she surprises the reader with her uncanny sensibility and metaphysical insights.” –Nin Andrews
Rebecca Hazelton is the author of Fair Copy (The Ohio State University Press, 2012), winner of the 2011 The Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry, and Vow, from Cleveland State University Poetry Center. She was the 2010-11 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Creative Writing Institute and winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review 2012 Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The Southern Review, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2011, and Best American Poetry 2013. In 2014, she won a Pushcart.
“From one of the best young poets writing in America, the poems in Vow are brainy, half-feral, sad, and sensuous, and often all at once. How astonishing! Hazelton’s work seems lit from within what we call brilliant.” –Alan Michael Parker
“Rebecca Hazelton’s poetry is witty, uninhibited, and dense yet full of breath. To read her work is to take a ride on the carnival’s Scrambler, arms up all the way. These poems hint at a love triangle in which there are no winners. Vow is one of the best second collections I have read in a long time.” –Sandra Beasley
“The siren call of Rebecca Hazelton’s lush second collection, Vow, is impossible to resist: ‘Jukebox Jewel, princess cut / you were a libretto sung into the smut.’ The music and fearlessness of these poems, their swing from sexy burlesque decadence to heady emotional resonance, wooed me over and over again. Vow is an extended meditation via exquisite metaphor, sly humor, racy eroticism, and devastating elegy on the complicated nature of desire and domesticity. In these intense 21st century love poems, Hazleton presents us with a uniquely embodied poetics that refuses to separate pleasure from danger. Vow is as captivating as it is fierce.” –Erika Meitner
Render / An Apocalypse
Rebecca G. Howell
Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author of Render /An Apocalypse (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013), which was selected by Nick Flynn for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize and was a 2014 finalist for ForeWord Review’s Book of the Year. She is also the translator of Amal al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation (Alice James Books, 2011). Among her awards are two fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and a Pushcart Prize. Native to Kentucky, Howell is the poetry editor at Oxford American.
“To enter into these poems one must be fully committed, as the poet is, to seeing this world as it is, to staying with it, moment by moment, day by day. Yet these poems hold a dark promise: this is how you can do it, but you must be fully engaged, which means you must be fully awake, you must wake up inside it. As we proceed, the how-to of the beginning poems subtly transform, as the animals (or, more specifically, the livestock) we are engaging begin to, more and more, become part of us, literally and figuratively we enter inside of that which we devour.” –Nick Flynn
“This is the book you want with you in the cellar when the tornado is upstairs taking your house and your farm. It’s the book you want in the bomb shelter, and in the stalled car, in the kitchen waiting for the kids to come home, in the library when the library books are burned. Its instructions are clear and urgent. Rebecca Gayle Howell has pressed her face to the face of the actual animal world. She remembers everything we have forgotten. Read this! It’ s not too late. We can start over from right here and right now.” –Marie Howe
“In every one of these haunting and hungry poems, Howell draws a map for how to enter the heat and dew of the human being, naked and facing the natural world, desperate to feel. I did not realize while reading Render how deeply I was handing everything over.” –Nikky Finney
Adventures in the Lost Interiors of America
William D. Waltz
William D. Waltz is the author of Zoo Music (Slope Editions, 2004) and Adventures in the Lost Interiors of America (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). His chapbook Confluence of Mysterious Origins was published by Factory Hollow Press. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota and is the founder and editor of the magazine Conduit.
“William Waltz will take me through ‘the buzz and clamor in a forest of hearts.’ Adventures in the Lost Interiors of America is an adventure, I will go on this adventure with Waltz as a skillful, faithful, compass-true guide. I love this book.” –James Tate
You Are Not Dead
Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013) and two chapbooks: The Hero Poems (H_NGM_N) and I Was Not Even Born (Coconut Books, 2013), a collaboration with Nick Sturm. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Columbia Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2013, and elsewhere. She co-edits and publishes iO: A Journal of New American Poetry / iO Books, and is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship.
“In You Are Not Dead Wendy Xu breaks all the old rules that have never done us any favors anyway. She writes beautifully, noticing who we are, and letting us see ourselves with a little more humanity, a little more humor, a little more humility. I’m happy to have read this book.” –James Tate
“There’s a wild and wondrous poet plundering-through our lives, collecting the oddest and most significant things, turning our thoughts toward things we couldn’t have known before she turned us toward them. You Are Not Dead is precisely how this book can get you to feel and that is an almost other-worldly power. The poet who imagines and builds these poems is irresistible.” –Dara Wier
“That fluctuating space between the temporary and the infinite is an erogenous zone made all the more enticing when articulated so eloquently. ‘We have a lifespan and O how we live it out.’ Wendy Xu’ s poems posit for us a future, a presence, a body resistant to the ravages of time. Mortality is a far planet. Here in Xu’s work, we are passionately, and gratefully, alive.” –D A Powell
The Hartford Book
Samuel Amadon is the author of Like a Sea, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, and The Hartford Book from Cleveland State University Poetry Center. His poems have appeared in A Public Space, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, and elsewhere. He is the author of four chapbooks, including Each H from Ugly Duckling Presse. He regularly reviews poetry in places such as The Believer, Boston Review, Lana Turner: a journal of poetry and opinion, and Rain Taxi. A poetry editor for Gulf Coast from 2009-2011, he also co-founded the chapbook press Projective Industries. He received his M.F.A. from Columbia University in 2007. While in New York, he curated the Frequency Reading Series in Greenwich Village with Shafer Hall and worked for the Poetry Society of America. Recipient of a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, he has been awarded the Carol Houck Smith Scholarship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from Inprint Houston. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Houston, and lives in Columbia, SC, where he is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina.
“These poems are street-smart, buoyantly lyrical, and they possess something beautiful and permanent at their core. Samuel Amadon does for Hartford what Koch, Schuyler and O’ Hara have done for New York City.” –Tracy K. Smith
“Most poetry written in what might be called the vernacular is evidently a stunt, and we soon weary of such prowess. Sam Amadon has no such self-congratulatory purpose; his speech is helplessly frank in its high and low spirits:
My parents thought they’d keep me safe
by sticking me in a private school,
but Hartford works its way in no matter
what you learn & this winter
I’ve come to know the worst people
the city has in it…
The poet is one of them, and suffers as much as any chronicler since Clough for his own pathetic (even ghastly) powers of presence: this is not memoir, it is confession, the speaker is on the rack and only timidly aware of the torture he cannot help wreaking. Our poetry will never be the same now Amadon has spoken, our language can be entirely different. Happily for us.” –Richard Howard
“Mesmerizing as well as desperate, a wild-eyed tour of a lesser hell. Amadon claims these poems are almost entirely true—if so, God help him, the truth has been transformed into poetry. Sam Amadon—even his name (like Jack Kerouac) is a song. Sing it.” –Nick Flynn
Winner of the 2012 Believer Poetry Award
Mother Was a Tragic Girl
Sandra Simonds grew up in Los Angeles, California and earned a B.A. in Psychology and Creative Writing at U.C.L.A and an M.F.A. from the University of Montana, where she received a poetry fellowship. In 2010, Simonds received a Ph.D. in Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She is the author of four full-length collections of poetry: The Glass Box (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012) and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009) which was a finalist for numerous prizes including the National Poetry Series. She is also the author of several chapbooks including Used White Wife (Grey Book Press, 2009) and The Humble Travelogues of Mr. Ian Worthington, Written from Land & Sea (Cy Gist, 2006).
“When I look out the window of my Winnebago I want to see a Sandra Simonds poem on the billboard before I crash. Bless her cranky pornboots.” –Cathy Wagner
“What does it mean to be a used white wife, a mother, a tragic girl writing poems? Sandra Simonds gets into these messy words and then tears them apart. Sometimes with the words of others. And sometimes with poems made from scratch. They aren’t all bad, these words. But they aren’t all good either. And that is where Mother was a Tragic Girl gets its power. You will at moments be laughing but then you will also at moments just as much be crying. If Antigone was alive and decided to write some poems about the nuclear family, she would write them like Sandra Simonds. These are tough.” –Juliana Spahr
I Live in a Hut
S. E. Smith
S. E. Smith holds degrees from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University. She is the founding editor of OH NO magazine and her poems have appeared in FENCE, jubilat, Best New Poets, and the Black Warrior Review, among others.
“S. E. Smith’s I Live in a Hut has a deceptively simple title, considering that the brain in that hut contains galaxies-worth of invention: At night when your soldiers are praying ceaselessly for less rain and more underwear my soldiers make underwear out of rain. These poems seesaw between despair and delight but delight is winning the battle. Smith is a somersaulting tightrope walker of a poet and her poems will make you look at anything and everything with new eyes: For days I tried to rub the new freckle // off my hand until I realized what it was / and began to grant it its sovereignty.” –Matthea Harvey
“S. E. Smith’s pilgrims, enormous sleeping women, swaggering put-downs and flirtations constitute a welcomed refuge from the lethargy of much contemporary poetry. Her ‘dialectical shoes slant toward the pithy ocean’ somehow combining the off-beat tilt of Emily Dickinson and the ruminating depths of Virginia Woolf. These poems are not simply turns of phrase, they are defiant twists—Mobius strips of syntax and declaration. They spirit the ingenuity and urgency of one who dwells in possibility; one who lives in a hut of palatial imagination and dares us to live there too. What a rambunctious, remarkable debut!” –Terrance Hayes
“What a pleasure in these days of upholstered gloom to find such welcoming poems in which the certainty that life is a serious, messy business doesn’t rule out but necessitates play. Fast, nimble, devilish, and not without a few scares, this is the book of a poet who insists on throwing a party in a burning house. Or rather hut. How lucky we’ re invited.” –Dean Young
Jon Woodward was born in Wichita, KS, and has lived in Denver and Fort Collins, CO, as well as Boston and Quincy, MA. His books are Uncanny Valley (Cleveland State University Poetry Center),Rain (Wave Books), and Mister Goodbye Easter Island (Alice James Books). Other recent projects include a 40-foot-long Möbius strip poem, called “Mockingbird,” which was typed on adding machine tape; a suite of time-dependent visual poems called “Poems to Stare At;” and an ongoing poem called “Copyleft,” to which quatrains are added at the rate of one per day. He lives in Quincy with his wife, poet and pianist Oni Buchanan, and he works at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he specializes in digital imaging and a variety of other curatorial activities.
“This is a strange book: visionary and dark. It stutters out a kind of music: repeated phrases which accumulate errors and mutate as they go like chromosomes or, as Woodward puts it better, ‘visible fissile ribbons.’ It’s as if we were present for the moments of creation and extinction. Uncanny Valley is ominous and beautiful.” –Rae Armantrout
“When I first encountered the poems of Jon Woodward, I was stunned into the state that is my life’s joy—I was in the presence of the inimitable. Uncanny Valley extends that experience—almost into another dimension. These apocalyptic, pixilated poems forge a mythology of our ravaged culture, one that might have been written in the future. If you want poetry to give you a persimmon on a plate, look elsewhere; if you want to know what happens when seven trees fall on the highway and the story is told by a stutterer, this is the book, and it could only have been written by Woodward.” –Mary Ruefle
Rust or Go Missing
Lily Brown was born and raised in Massachusetts. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Saint Mary's College of California, and the University of Georgia. In addition to Rust or Go Missing, she is the author of five chapbooks, including The Haptic Cold (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013). She lives and teaches in the Bay Area.
“Lily Brown writes with and against things in poems that are coiled up tight as springs (or snakes). A believer in the power of the line, she writes, ‘I think the plastics/and sink them’ then ‘Where is the sand/man hiding the dirt.’ These terse, biting poems will make you look around and wonder.” –Rae Armantrout
“Sometimes tender, sometimes spiral-eyed—but always, as we say, ‘of a mind’ —Lily Brown’s sonorous and cerebral poems can fire synapses you never knew you had. If you’re careful, Rust or Go Missing will keep you on the edge of your head.” –Graham Foust
“Reading Lily Brown’s poems, I feel myself in the presence of an electric consciousness gazing at the temporal rifts and physical folds beneath landscapes and the manifold tensions between bodies. Poetic language here is an instrument of thought or, rather, of a thinking that breathes and is embodied and seeks a new path. By all means, join her along the way.” –Michael Palmer
The Grief Performance
Emily Kendal Frey
Emily Kendal Frey is the author of the chapbooks Airport (Blue Hour, 2009), Frances (Poor Claudia, 2010), and The New Planet (Mindmade Books, 2010), as well as three chapbook collaborations. She won the Poetry Society of America’ s 2012 Norma Farber First Book Award for The Grief Performanceand lives in Portland, Oregon.
“Emily Kendal Frey’s The Grief Performance is a book that condenses a journey of finding and re-finding loss into beautiful packages. The packages are the poems and they sit shiny and new on every page of this fabulous and generous book. I want to go into the world that these poems create, just so that I can be given these terrifying presents again and again. I know you will, too. See you there.” –Dorothea Lasky
“Emily Kendal Frey’s poems are made of words that can fake out death, trick abandonment into a bed, turn love into hands. They are rich with sound, brave with secrets, funny, (tragic), and open ( ). She will twist up your heart into your next heart. Settle in. There are three dead people in her.” –Zachary Schomburg
“Emily Kendal Frey performs grief and dread as a graceful dance, the kind the tree you cut down in your backyard might do on your heart. This work is light, deft, dangerous. There are perfect poems here, such as ‘The End,’ which enacts a simple, startling twist on the hoary injunction to ‘Walk towards the light.’ See, everything you know is wrong. You really have to read this book.” –Rae Amrantrout
Zach Savich is the author of four books of poetry, including Century Swept Brutal (Black Ocean, 2014), and a book of prose, Events Film Cannot Withstand (Rescue Press, 2011). His work has received the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Colorado Prize for Poetry, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Open Award, the Omnidawn chapbook Award, and other honors. He teaches in the B.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and coedits Rescue Press’s Open Prose Series.
“Take Zach Savich’s The Firestorm as one proof of Emerson’s assertion that the mind’s nature is volcanic. A firestorm is such a conflagration that it produces above it its own atmosphere. And so a reader finds in Savich’s pages a super-heated cloud in which the poet’s voice grows multiple, grows active, and the poem records the intimate collisions of lines that veer from prophecy to aphorism to ribald wit to stoic speculation. If this sounds nebulous, it is not. It is figurative, lightning-like, shot through sudden flashes of experience that in the sudden afterglow reveal that experience also experiences itself. Such is the complicated place where wit turns witness, and in doing so, opens up the deeper ironies that at first glance seem quite plain: I have forgotten if I am pulling the curtain open or closed. Savich pulls the curtain open and closed, showing us again poetry’s paradoxical necessity: that the poem must show and hide at once, reveal and obscure simultaneously, and that a song that thinks makes of its melody a matter that matters.” –Dan Beachy-Quick
“What do you get when the instructions call for apples, leaves, rivers, cities, eggs, black-eyed lazy susans and a desire exceeding imagining? You get to inhabit the world only Zach Savich’s exceedingly intelligent and shapely poems have conjured up for us. I love this book. I love having poetry taking this good care of my brain.” –Dana Wier
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
John Bradley is the author of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know (Cleveland State University Poetry Center), Love-In-Idleness: The Poetry of Roberto Zingarello (Word Works), Terrestrial Music(Curbstone), and War on Words (BlazeVOX). His chapbook, One Day You A Mountain Shall Be: The Lost Poetry of Cheng Hui, is just out from Finishing Line Press. He edited Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age (Coffee House Press), a poetry anthology, Learning to Glow: A Nuclear Reader (University of Arizona Press), and Eating the Pure Light: Homage to Thomas McGrath(Backwaters Press).
“Reading John Bradley is like holding a flashlight and staring into the abyss. His poetic vision is, by turns, terrifying, humorous, and illuminating. Each poem conveys something of the psyche of contemporary life, the texture of our own peculiar madness, where the senseless seems normal, and logic but a figment of one’ s imagination. In this new collection, Bradley clearly establishes himself as one of the premier prose poets in our country today.” –Nin Andrews
“John Bradley’s You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know reinvigorates parables, legends, and lists to both familiarize and destabilize sacred and secular histories. By turns surreal and humorous, chilling and strange, Bradley’s work engages pop culture and politics, making a rare and intelligent music. Bradley’s linguistic prowess will have you reading these poems aloud at parties. –Denise Duhamel
“‘I once dated a woman who had a miniscule role (she bit the head off a marigold) in a movie that was never released but gained cult status mostly because it was never released.’ Thus speaks a narrator in John Bradley’s You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, who gives hints at the shenanigans we might expect like another narrator (or is it the same guy?) who lives in a sealed cave with Madonna, who, unfortunately has no interest in sex. In the hands of a lesser poet, these scenarios would be merely amusing, but by now Bradley has become a master of creating modern parables that take on the superficiality and narcissism of our personal and public lives. No one escapes his scrutiny. And for us, that’s a good thing.” –Peter Johnson
Elyse Fenton is the author of Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010), selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Literary Journal, her poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in American Poetry Review, Pleiades, Bat City Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times. In 2010, she received the University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize for Clamor. Born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, Elyse Fenton received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. She has worked in the woods, on farms, and in schools in New England, the Pacific Northwest, Mongolia, and Texas. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
“From the smoldering wreckage of a battle-scarred Iraq to ‘the last unmuzzled throatful of air,’ Elyse Fenton’s debut collection clamors with such exigency that it drops us right into the danger zone. Her art is precise, persistent and volatile when deployed to the front lines. But also, sparing: a ‘human camera’ embedded within a relationship tested by the distance from battlefield to home. This book certainly has its disquietude but how else to measure the brutality of the world? The recompense of it, though, is Fenton s passionate eloquence; her unfaltering fidelity to the word.” –D. A. Powell
“Elyse Fenton’s Clamor connects the forward operating bases in Iraq with the home front here in America. It is a necessary poetry which brings us ‘the work of shrapnel;’ ‘the thing that, trying and trying / you can never spit out’ (while continually recognizing that there is always more to give). In keeping with the best traditions of war poetry, the underlying subjects of Clamor are love and loss.Clamor is a book that refuses to turn away. It exists within the deeply personal, the deeply private, and yet as the poems finish within the reader it is a work which ultimately speaks to the universal.”–Brian Turner
“With lines that show an unyielding dedication to craft, these poems are not afraid of meaning or the meaningful. More and more every day, the thinking American asks how she is to believe in love when there is war all about her, and in each of her deeply felt lyrics, Elyse Fenton confronts this question with the kind of tenderness one lover reserves for another. If every poem is indeed a love poem,Clamor is indeed a debut worth reading and about which we must make noise.” – Jericho Brown
Jesse Lee Kercheval
Jesse Lee Kercheval is the author of twelve books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Her latest book is the novel My Life as a Silent Movie, (Indiana University Press, 2013). Her novella Brazil (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010) won the Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest. Her poetry collection Cinema Muto (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009) was selected by David Wojahn for a Crab Orchard Open Selection Award. Her story collection The Alice Stories (Universityof Nebraska Press, 2007) won the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize. Her first story collection The Dogeater (University of Missouri Press, 1987) won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction. Space (Algonquin Books, 1998), her memoir about growing up near Cape Kennedy during the moon race, won the Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her novel, The Museum of Happiness, set in Paris in 1929, has been reissued with a new afterword by the author by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of the Library of American Fiction. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Research and Study Center at Harvard, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Corporation of Yaddo, and James A. Michener and the Copernicus Society.
“Kercheval’s novella is not only structured as a journey but is a wild ride through much of America, portraying two unlikely companions in a highly charged and tense relationship. The narrative moves briskly, in economic language, and chronologically, without the customary flashbacks and postmodernist collage tricks—an extremely well written and suspenseful tale, cinematically vivid, provocative, and wonderful.” –Josip Novakovich
“Brazil reminds me of why I started reading in the first place, to be enchanted, to be swept up and carried away from my world and dropped into a world at once more vivid and incandescent. The prose is luminous and compassionate, the characters are riveting and heroic, the themes complex and resonant, and the pace is relentless. This is not a book you can put down before it’s finished with you. You won’t soon forget Paulo and Claudia as they rocket across the country into the heartland, searching for love, family, and a home in the world.” –John Dufresne
“The novella is at once the most elegant and demanding form: a writer must balance the looseness of a novel with the concision of a short story, a feat that only the bravest and most talented of us can manage. In Brazil, Jesse Lee Kercheval proves, yet again, that she is exactly the right writer for the job. A wild American picaresque, Brazil snaps along briskly, yet feels full-fleshed, and brims with a sly wit and grace.” –Lauren Groff
“What sleight-of-hand have we here—a novella that’s as rich as a book three times its length while as seamless as a sonnet? Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Brazil is a glorious road trip into Florida’s heart of darkness, where damned near anything is possible, and points beyond. No one in this book has ever been told not to give rides to strangers. For that, this reader is grateful.” –John McNally
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dora Malech was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1981 and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Yale College in 2003 and an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2005. She has been the recipient of a Frederick M. Clapp Poetry Writing Fellowship from Yale, a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the Writers’ Workshop, a Glenn Schaeffer Poetry Award, a Writer’s Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy, and a 2010 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. The Waywiser Press published her first full-length collection of poems, Shore Ordered Ocean, in 2009, and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center published her second collection, Say So, in 2011. Malech’s poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Best New Poets, American Letters & Commentary, Poetry London, The New Census, Tin House, and The Yale Review. From 2011 to 2014, She helped to found and directed the Iowa Youth Writing Project, an arts outreach program for children and teens. She now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she joined the faculty of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University as an Assistant Professor of Poetry in Fall 2014.
“The two-faced (at minimum) essence of language is Dora Malech’s inherited problem, and her opportunity: nothing is just what it says, and everything says much more than it knows. I hope you like dirt because that’s what you’re getting, she warns, or promises. Malech is ferociously alert to the unconscious absurdity and desire in idiomatic speech, its mortifying blend of self-effacement and self-betrayal. The closer one stares at the dizzying, ultra-fluent surfaces of these poems, the more their grave ambiguities emerge.” –Mark Levine
“Say So flaunts the powers inherent in the duplicities of language, words as reactants in shifting contexts and punning-under-pressure, yet it settles for no easy, cool ironies, no detached assumptions of transgression; in fact, it achieves what can only be called white-hot sincerity and committed truthfulness. This is writing of astonishing prosodical dexterity and lexical wiles. What strikes me as most courageous is that even as Dora Malech’ s poetry confronts social, political and personal despair and wreckage, it never sacrifices innovative fire, will not be made mute or abjure the glorious means of poetry.” –Dean Young
Shane McCrae has written four full-length books of poems—Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center; finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a PEN Center USA Literary Award), Blood(Noemi Press), Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press), and The Animal Too Big to Kill(Persea Books; winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award)—and three chapbooks. His poems and prose have appeared in many anthologies, including The Best American series, and have been published in The American Poetry Review, Fence, Boston Review, Agni, jubilat and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He teaches at Oberlin College and in the brief-residency M.F.A. program at Spalding University.
“Syntax is the facility of the soul, O’Hara taught us, and somehow in the first decade of the 21st century, our poets decided to separate syntax and what compels us, as if the two weren’t of the same element, as if we read no Berryman and memorized no Shakespeare, and as if their punctuation did not stop our breath! What a joy now to discover a voice such as Shane McCrae’s, who in this first decade of a new century finds his new music, and compels us with its outbursts and heartbreak and yells and stuttering of joy and its sudden clarity of perception that is like no other. Shane McCrae is a master.” –Ilya Kaminsk
“Some books come down like gods dying to transform us out of our empty, shattered lives. Mule is such a book. Never shying away from sudden confusions of pain and beauty, Shane McCrae’s questions are not why so much pain? why so much beauty? but, instead, how can they remake us? McCrae’s is a living, breathing poetry made of wisdom and wrenching song.” –Katie Ford
“This astonishing, extremely beautiful book is, in a way, a new twist on the epithalamion, tracing the innumerable and inescapable marriages that fissure our lives. And it traces them with an eerie repetitive force that, while echoing the edgier experiments of Modernism, still manages to feel utterly unfamiliar. It’s a book both haunted and haunting possessed by sound and its tremendous momentum, that somehow-suspended momentum, hypnotic in its rhythms and compelling in its headlong fall into the truth of the heart.” –Cole Swenson
Kathleen Wakefield is a lyricist who began her songwriting career at Motown Records. She has worked in film and television with composers that include Academy Award winners Michel Colombier, Vangelis, and Gabriel Yared. Her stories have appeared in such journals as The Alaska Quarterly, Black River Review, The New Press, Salmagundi, Tabula Rasa, and West Branch.
“Kathleen Wakefield’s imagination constructed a minefield of malady when she wrote Snaketown. Snaketown’s soil has been raped by the mining industry and infected by a contagious soul sickness, which has spread to its inbred and insular community. Here is a morality tale of darkness and decline told in brilliant lyrical detail, biblically enchanting.” –Martine Bellen
“Snaketown is a shocking achievement. It’s a vision carved in jagged, searing, native prose from the bleak landscape of the American psyche. This story of a crumbling community clinging to a rock, its people flawed and haunted and kin to us all, is an experience so vivid, so terrifying, and so compelling that I fear part of me will be stuck there forever. A work of rare beauty, it’s art and storytelling of the highest order.” –Steve Lattimore
“In venomous lyricism, Kathleen Wakefield captures the sweltering emptiness at the rim of the high desert in another, woebegone time, where the rustling behind you may be angels’ wings or diamondback scales. This scathing novella will remain with you long after you have put it away. A searing triumph. You must read this book!” –Rita Williams
Horse Dance Underwater
Helena Mesa was born and raised in Pittsburgh to Cuban parents. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Barrow Street, Bat City Review, Indiana Review, Poet Lore, and Third Coast. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays, Mentor & Muse: From Poets to Poets. She lives in Ann Arbor and is an assistant professor of English at Albion College.
“‘Everything beautiful occurs when the body / is suspended,’ Helena Mesa quotes a performance artist who hangs his own pierced body in the air. Mesa’s poems are artfully suspended between lyric and narrative, between humans and animals, between Latin America and the U.S., between desire and the difficulty of its fulfillment. Horse Dance Underwater is an inventive, musical, and powerful debut.” –Mark Doty
“The poems in Helena Mesa’s virtuosic first book, Horse Dance Underwater, run with such speed, verve, and alacrity they leave you breathless, exhilarated, and transformed as if the purest kind of song had lifted you into the air. By this quickness of language finding lyric speech, Mesa’s poems remind us of art’s joyous and ecstatic effects.” –Michael Collier
“‘The world tilts in strange guises. Behold these, love these,’ Helena Mesa writes at the end of a long journey. I am moved by her notes to saints, by the way she limns the distance between strangers by her quest for a sacred grove. There is a deep aura of solitude in this splendid first book.” –Edward Hirsch
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