Something Bright, Then Holes: Poems

Maggie Nelson (Author)

Product Details

$16.00  $14.72
Soft Skull Press
Publish Date
June 12, 2018
5.4 X 8.1 X 0.5 inches | 0.25 pounds

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About the Author

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic, scholar, and nonfiction writer. In 2016 she was received a MacArthur genius grant. She is the author of five books of nonfiction, including The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism and was a New York Times bestseller; a landmark work of cultural, art, and literary criticism titled The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (Norton, 2011), which was featured on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review and named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; the cult classic Bluets (Wave Books, 2009), which was named by Bookforum as one of the 10 best books of the past 20 years; a memoir about her family, media spectacle, and sexual violence titled The Red Parts (originally published by Free Press in 2007, reissued by Graywolf in 2016); and a critical study of painting and poetry titled Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (University of Iowa, 2007; winner, the Susanne M. Glassock Award for Interdisciplinary Scholarship). Her books of poetry include Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull Press, 2007), Jane: A Murder (Soft Skull, 2005; finalist, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir), The Latest Winter (Hanging Loose Press, 2003), and Shiner (Hanging Loose, 2001). She has been the recipient of a 2012 Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and an Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant. She lives in Los Angeles.


Praise for The Argonauts

"It's Nelson's articulation of her many selves―the poet who writes prose; the memoirist who considers the truth specious; the essayist whose books amount to a kind of fairy tale, in which the protagonist goes from darkness to light, and then falls in love with a singular knight―that makes her readers feel hopeful."―Hilton Als, The New Yorker

"Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts exists in its own universe. My first reaction to Nelson's book was awestruck silence, such as one might experience when confronted with some dazzling supernatural phenomenon. Nelson is so outrageously gifted a writer and thinker that The Argonauts seems to operate in some astral dimension where the rules of normal physics have been suspended. Her book is an elegant, powerful, deeply discursive examination of gender, sexuality, queerness, pregnancy and motherhood, all conveyed in language that is intellectually potent and poetically expressive."―Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post

"[Nelson's] book--part memoir, part critical inquiry touching on desire, love, and family--is a superb exploration of the risk and the excitement of change. Thinking and feeling are, for Nelson, mutually necessary processes; the result is an exceptional portrait both of a romantic partnership and of the collaboration between Nelson's mind and heart."―The New Yorker

"Maggie Nelson slays entrenched notions of gender, marriage, and sexuality with lyricism, intellectual brass, and soul-ringing honesty in The Argonauts."―Vanity Fair

"Reading Maggie Nelson is like watching a high-wire act. Her books are inspiring . . . Because of her dazzling sentences, I will read whatever the daredevil writes. She cozies up to ideas unlike any other American writer."―The Boston Globe

"Maggie Nelson has proven her brilliance--a special blend of poeticism and philosophy, of theorizing and prose-weaving--in her eight previous nonfiction releases. But in The Argonauts, the gifted critic and scholar breaks generic ground with her work of 'auto theory, ' which offers a glimpse into the writer's mind, body, and home . . . The Argonauts is a must-read."―Bustle

"So much writing about motherhood makes the world seem smaller after the child arrives, more circumscribed, as if in tacit fealty to the larger cultural assumptions about moms and domesticity; Nelson's book does the opposite"―The New York Times Book Review

"Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation."―Olivia Laing, The Guardian

"In The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson turns 'making the personal public' into a romantic, intellectual wet dream. A gorgeous book, inventive, fearless, and full of heart."―Kim Gordon

"[Nelson's] is a radicalism that looks like the future of common sense . . . A singular book."―Vulture

"A loose yet intricate tapestry of memoir, art criticism and gently polemic . . . It's a book about using the writings of smart, even difficult writers to help us find clarity and precision in our intimate lives, and it's a book about the no less intimate pleasures of the life of the mind . . . The Argonauts is a magnificent achievement of thought, care and art."―Los Angeles Times

"A daring, intelligent, strange, and beautiful book . . . [Nelson] has created an essential thing, a guide to the first years of the queer 21st Century, and a hymn to love in all its forms."―The Gay & Lesbian Review

"Nelson's writing is fluid--to read her story is to drift dreamily among her thoughts . . . She masterfully analyzes the way we talk about sex and gender."―Huffington Post

"Nelson's vibrant, probing and, most of all, outstanding book is also a philosophical look at motherhood, transitioning, partnership, parenting, and family-an examination of the restrictive way we've approached these terms in the past and the ongoing struggle to arrive at more inclusive and expansive definitions for them."―NPR

"Brilliant like nothing else you've ever read, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is as hard to pin down as it is stunning. In sharp, intense bursts of language, Nelson melds critical theory with her most personal musings, as she navigates falling in lust and love, explores gender, sexuality, and motherhood, and builds a family with artist Harry Dodge. Although slim, The Argonauts contains worlds of thought and feeling, challenging our assumptions and moving our hearts. This book is the first must-read of the summer."―BuzzFeed

"In a culture still too quick to ask people to pick a side--to be male or female, to be an assimilationist or a revolutionary, to be totally straight or totally gay, totally hetero- or totally homo-normative--Nelson's book is a beautiful, passionate and shatteringly intelligent meditation on what it means not to accept binaries but to improvise an individual life that says, without fear, yes, and."―Chicago Tribune

"Reading Nelson is like sweeping the leaves out of your mental driveway: by the end of one of her books, you have a better understanding of how the world works . . . The result is one of the most intelligent, generous, and moving books of the year."―Publishers Weekly, "Best Summer Books 2015"

"The Argonauts finds Nelson at her most vulnerable, arguing for a radical rethinking of the terms in which we express love."―The Paris Review, "Staff Picks"

"What a dazzlingly generous, gloriously unpredictable book! Maggie Nelson shows us what it means to be real, offering a way of thinking that is as challenging as it is liberating. She invites us to 'pay homage to the transitive' and enjoy 'a becoming in which one never becomes.' Reading The Argonauts made me happier and freer."―Eula Biss

"Maggie Nelson cuts through our culture's prefabricated structures of thought and feeling with an intelligence whose ferocity is ultimately in the service of love. No piety is safe, no orthodoxy, no easy irony. The scare quotes burn off like fog."―Ben Lerner

"There isn't another critic alive like Maggie Nelson--who writes with such passion, clarity, explicitness, fluidity, playfulness, and generosity that she redefines what thinking can do today."―Wayne Koestenbaum

"Once again, Maggie Nelson has created awe-inspiring work, one that smartly calls bullshit on the places culture--radical subcultures included--stigmatize and misunderstand both maternity and queer family-making. With a fiercely vulnerable intelligence, Nelson leaves no area un-investigated, including her own heart. I know of no other book like this, and I know how crucially the culture needs it."―Michelle Tea

"One of the greatest books I've ever read."―Annie Sprinkle

"Reading Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts helped me to feel some things I've long thought about but hardly been able to express regarding the socialization of the maternal function, which is the dispersed, dispersive essence of the futurity we present to one another until one is not another anymore. There's the violence I commit in making a claim for that futurity, and the violence I endure when that claim is granted. There's the exhaustive sharing that takes form as writing. There's the 'orgy of specificity' when the inexpressible is held and released in each expression 'cause I just want to sing your name even when I don't want to sing your name. There's the love story buried in every 'I love you, ' and in every 'I love you' there's a contract for destruction and rebuilding. There's The Argonauts, which is one of the greatest books I've ever read."―Fred Moten

"In the 17th century a book like Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts might have been called an anatomy, by which I mean it's a learned, quirky, open-hearted, often beautiful naming-of-parts. The anatomy never forgets the fragile embodied world-its carnality or its finitude. And such is The Argonauts a memoir (debriefing, really) at once raw, pensive, exhilarating, sad, funny, and embodied in the same profound way."―Terry Castle

Praise for The Art of Cruelty

"This is criticism at its best."―Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

"An important and frequently surprising book . . . could be read as the foundation for a post-avant-garde aesthetics . . . Nelson, who is also a poet, is such a graceful writer that I . . . just sat back and enjoyed the show."--Laura Kipnis, New York Times Book Review

"[Nelson's] critiques of individual artists are delightfully fierce without being mean spirited . . . Fascinating and bracingly intelligent . . . The Art of Cruelty's prose is often gorgeous."--Troy Jollimore, Boston Globe

"A lean-forward experience, and in its most transcendent moments, reading it can feel like having the best conversation of your life."--Rachel Syme, NPR Books

"I hope that critics, and aspiring critics, and those who are interested in the relationship between art and ethics, read [The Art of Cruelty]."--Susie Linfield, New Republic

Praise for Bluets

"Nelson's expressive style springs from her subject as much as the content, in turn, inflects her vocabulary, tone and structure. Seeking such reciprocity--no less an ideal than, say, 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings'--may radically redefine poetry, as it increasingly becomes the genre that is not one."--Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

"Building the book as a collection of facts and quotations, Nelson interweaves her own insights, textual interpretations, and anecdotes ranging from the tragic to the outrageous. Nelson may, admittedly, have fallen short of the 'compendium of blue observations, thoughts, and facts' she says she at first envisioned, but this slim volume is nonetheless an elegant, indispensable addition to the genre of the lyric essay."--Kathleen Rooney, Boston Review

"From blue factoids like Benedict de Saussure's 1789 invention of 'cyanometer, with which he hoped to measure the blue of the sky, ' to her own struggles with depression, Nelson gifts us with what seems like a lifetime study of blue while somehow slyly avoiding any of the obvious 'blue' clichés. Maggie Nelson continues to raise the bar higher in what a reader can expect from a book. Bluets is smart yet intimate, quiet yet provocative, and a welcome addition to the poetic non-fiction discourse."--Susie DeFord, BOMB

"In the end Nelson breaks free of romance's tyranny. She dreams someone sends her cornflowers, the American name for bluets. Shaggy, wild, and strong--they're a revealing metaphor for the author."--Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, The Brooklyn Rail

"In 240 entries, Nelson relates a history of blue from philosophical, zoological and literary perspectives, all the while weaving in bits of memoir and emotional rumination. Through this collage, she broadens the definition of blue from a merely visual phenomenon to a vehicle for the divine."--Catherine Lacey, Time Out New York

"It's an impossible book to describe without simply handing it to you; it is, hackneyed as it is to say, a book to be experienced. I can only report that I am reading it again and again, that the resonances between the (seemingly) disparate propositions are startling and emotional, that I suspect your reaction will be different and also quite wonderful."--Peter Rock, The Rumpus

"Brash, feverish, intractable, exploratory, and terribly 'touchant' Nelson's Bluets is, I am remind'd for some reason (it's in Marías) of Rimbaud's line: 'Par délicatesse / J'ai perdu ma vie.'"--John Latta, Isola di Rifuti

"Nelson doesn't want to leave anything out, as suits a collector's project. Thus, in the same way that she wanders among blue objects (shards of glass, bottles of ink, stones and tattoos and the nests of bowerbirds) and accidental theorists of color (Goethe and Newton and Duras and Novalis) and the color's utility in human imagination (blue moods, blues music, the blue divine), she likewise wanders among the positions the orchestrator of these lists must adopt. This results in an admixture of candor, passion and detachment that makes for irresistible intimacy."--Ray McDaniel, The Constant Critic

"It must be said upfront that Maggie Nelson could have worked this out as a book of poetry if that's what she had wanted to do early on. Which is to say, for a book that might actually be an essay, which might be a lyrical essay, for a long work that 'blurs genre, ' she fills the requirement of what good poetry must do, which is deliver new ways of talking and looking and thinking, and helping us to look and think."--Ben Fama, Fanzine

"The book is a philosophical and personal exploration of what the color blue has done to Nelson. Despite the exhaustion, Bluets wears its hybrid/fragmented dress well, showing its seams and much enthralled by its wanderlust, an aesthetic runway that constantly leads Nelson to find new ideas, images, and expressions."--Thomas Larson, TriQuarterly

"Bluets reaches far beyond the constraints of its subject, resulting in a series of delicately associative numbered paragraphs investigating a broken romantic relationship, a friend's chronic nerve pain, the writing process itself, and the deceptive elements of perception and color. The result not only defies easy categorization, but also leans toward Walter Benjamin's famous declaration that all great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one."--Rob Schlegel, Jacket

"In her dark excavation of grief, she has collected messages of great wisdom and powerful beauty."--Gavin Francis, The Guardian

"Bluets is brilliant and sad, and it adds to the excellent body of work this prolific, young writer has created." --Gina Myers, Bookslut

Praise for The Red Parts

"Very rarely does a book come along that combines such extraordinary lyricism and ethical precision with the sense that the author is writing for her very life. The Red Parts is one of these. At every turn of this riveting, genre-defying account, Nelson refuses complacency and pushes further into the unknown. A necessary, austere, and deeply brave achievement."--Annie Dillard

"Her quivering, precise ethical sensitivity is everywhere at work, worrying, probing, discerning . . . Nelson's resistance to the easy answer, her willingness to reach a kind of conclusion and then to break it, to probe further and further, to ask about her own complex and not entirely noble intentions instead of facilely condemning others, make The Red Parts an uneasy masterpiece."

"The Red Parts is meandering and diaristic, plunging us into a story as it happens. We sit beside Nelson and share her bewilderment, and by the end of the book we are forced to recognize that this is one of the greatest gifts an author can provide us: the chance to admit that we do not know what we think."

"Maggie Nelson is having a moment. . . . In writing The Red Parts, Nelson has made her own box holding the fragments of many things. It's not a beautiful object, but a valuable, coolly shimmering one, which captures the raw bewilderment that can affect a family for generations after a violent loss."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Is Maggie Nelson a poet, a critic, or a memoirist? No label is quite right, no category quite enough. Works like Bluets and last year's The Argonauts are full of sentences that move from the personal to the critical, take a dip into quoting another writer, corner hard into comic profanity and then come to an emotional stop you couldn't never have predicted three lines earlier."--Los Angeles Times

"The story blossoms into a meditation on memory, the fallibility of forensics, the grieving process, the justice system, and much more . . . Nelson's account is both riveting and nuanced. The result is like Making a Murderer as told by Joan Didion--a breathtaking and discomfiting experience that will stay with readers well beyond the latest true crime fad."--Bust Magazine

"[Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts is] an enthralling personal story-slash-true-crime-book that just happens to be written by one of the most thoughtful writers of our time."--Esquire

"Grief and fear are not eradicated, but bluntly confronted. 'Justice' is constantly in question. Each chapter startles then reverberates with Nelson's poetic language . . . [The Red Parts] challenges an often misogynistic, and unfortunately familiar, origin."--Kirkus Reviews

"The Red Parts does not attempt to conclude a hazy family who-done-it, nor does it seek out reparations. Rather, it is a memorial that gives testimony the fallibility of Truth."--Fiction Advocate

"The Red Parts has none of the trappings of a whodunit. It doesn't look for answers, it just looks unflinchingly at the wreckage, the loss, the love and the fear. It bears witness."--The Rumpus

"The Red Parts has the pacing of a crime novel and the eloquence of a poem. A fascinating, page-turning read. I couldn't put it down."--Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land

"Every bit as gripping as a true-crime book, but infinitely more complex and rewarding."--Vulture

"The Red Parts bears weight, though it moves nimbly; it is expansive, shifting, and sprawling, eddying into small moments of memory and time before flooding outward, straining against the limits of the writer and the writer's mind . . . [It] adds welcome insight to understanding a writer who is miraculously able to eschew narrative at the same time embarking on her own mythology."--Literary Hub

"A genre buster with an engaging prose style, Nelson intertwines psychoanalysis, personal memoir and true-crime tidbits into a darkly intelligent page-turner . . . She argues that stories are by nature imperfect--and yet she also shows us how they can become totally worthwhile."--Michael Miller, Time Out New York

"Alternating between the current trial and her family history, Nelson's account is lucid, her head clear, and her writing strong. Memories of her childhood--particularly of her father, who died when she was a girl--are the most emotionally charged elements. But her wry and honest account of the clownish calamity of the courtroom and the impending media circus (Nelson was on 48 Hours Mystery) are also affecting. Given the popularity of crime TV, this is a much-needed reminder of the long, painful aftermath of heinous crimes."--Emily Cook, Booklist

Praise for Jane: A Murder

"A deep, dark, female masterpiece."--Eileen Myles

"This true story of murder and childhood beats down the last sparks in the cremains of genre with grace and appetite. Poets who want to write fiction and fiction writers who are sick of their limits, take a good look at this book that is speedy and readable in all the right ways. It is a model for change."--Fanny Howe

"In this blurred genre memoir, Maggie Nelson attempts through poems, reflections, diary excerpts, dreams, scraps of newspaper accounts, and excerpts from police records to resuscitate a sense of her murdered aunt. Haunting this book are Jane's unaccounted for last hours, 'a gap so black/it could eat/an entire sun/without leaving/a trace.' But Jane is less about filling that gap than about illuminating the life that existed before, and the lives that struggled on after, her death. An empathetic and beautifully controlled approach to a profoundly difficult event." --Brian Evenson

"In Jane: A Murder, Maggie Nelson tells the story of her aunt, who was murdered before the writer was born. Through a text composed of poems as well as prose fragments, Nelson transforms her harrowing subject into an experimental, splintered tale that questions the complacencies of conventional autobiography. With a lyrical, ethical clarity, her work bravely probes the unknowability and undecidability at the mysterious heart of any life, any death."--Commendation of the PEN Martha Albrand Award Judges, in selecting Jane as a finalist

"Like all naturals, Nelson is driven by an ambition somewhere between mission and compulsion. Lucky for us." Jordan Davis,

Praise for The Latest Winter

"Exuberant."--Publishers Weekly

"These poems manage to say everything about everything--each determining day, each shifting sense of inexhaustible person. Back of it all is an extraordinary ear for the way words find place, make a passage from here to there, blessedly keep on talking."--Robert Creeley

"Few poets are strange and quick enough to capture the frenetic quality of contemporary life. Her poems move fast, think on their feet, hit and run with equal parts of humor, glamour, and horror. In every way, she is a thoroughly original voice for our time."--Elaine Equi

Praise for Shiner

"Maggie Nelson is one of the most exciting poetic talents of her generation."--Wayne Koestenbaum
Praise for Something Bright, Then Holes (2018)

Lambda Literary, New in June Roundup

"Nelson's nexus is fluidity: gender, pleasure, desire, and the body are questioned with equal rigor as modality, criticality, and theory. Those concerns are present in Something Bright . . . But in this collection, Nelson's heady, narcotic philosophizing is underpinned by a more personal vulnerability." --The Paris Review

"Maggie Nelson's gorgeous, expansive book of poetry feels like a necessary summer read, not least because of Nelson's ability to so palpably, grotesquely, beautifully make clear the urgency of love and f*cking, as she does in the book's titular poem." --NYLON, 1 of 46 Great Books to Read This Summer

"This re-issue of Nelson's 2007 collection of poems shows the celebrated author in her most incisive and economic form--a record of a protean talent in the making." --Largehearted Boy, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Book of the Week

"A hidden gem." --MyDomaine, One of the Best Books of the Year

"Soft Skull Press has released a gorgeous reissue of Nelson's Something Bright, Then Holes and, despite being originally published in 2007, it's easily one of the best books of 2018. . . . Maggie Nelson elicits genuine awe with each turn of the page. . . . Something Bright, Then Holes is candid and heartfelt, blurring the lines between poetry and storytelling fluently and with thoughtful contemplation. These poems swathe their reader and craft a voyeuristic sense of empathy; it's as if you're not supposed to be there. Yet, here you are." --Popscure

"Nelson's 2018 reprint provides precise evidence of her singular and true innovation in content, form, and timeless(ness). It drops controlled dollops of poetic meter, rhyme, and lyricism. It steals from multiple styles (Nelson cites her "thefts" on the acknowledgement page), it exudes nuanced understanding of postmodernity. It cries with confession; boxes with language. Nelson is raw, honest, rough, and tender." --The Brooklyn Rail