The Tyranny of Milk offers 26 short-lined lyrical narratives that deftly yoke the singular to the epic with a confident, curious brand of wisdom. The collection’s trajectory builds from sixth-grade science lessons using cows’ eyes (“we pared them away / those shards / of stored sight”) to a pondering of the earth’s vast waters lapping up against boundless human thirst: “so huge / we are in sorrow, so mired in metaphor and hope, you would know us by it.” The oceanic scale of the poem “Why the Water” echoes the local mapping of “Wetter,” a series of vignettes about the mixed inheritance of bed-wetting and the elusiveness of identity: “It is yours / and not yours. / …You race it.” Another poem, “Terra Incognita,” retells a resonant, comic Lakota anecdote concerning the Lewis and Clark expedition. “Love of Line: Notes for an Apprentice Shingler,” turns to the heft and heave of the Old English poetic line in an homage to precision and hard work. London vividly brings personal mythology to the page, whether recounting the appetite of a dying poet who craves “the small, bloodless planet of the olive, smooth in his / five o’clock martini,” or depicting young sisters’ slow awakening to sexual desire. The collection also weaves family stories to the traditions they form and are formed by, from the Yiddish-speaking uncles of “Sweet Salvage” to the sister in Israel readying her gas mask: “You know / what an anteater looks like?” Frequently London deploys wry humor in the service of serious contemplation. In the semi-surreal title poem, with its ironic juxtaposing of “milk” and “tyranny,” cows journey far from the pasture: “The night the Guernseys / came to dinner was not / the right night.” Here, kosher traditions are upset, as the speaker grapples with the “mixed-up blessings” of family life, heritage and artful fate: “the milkblood draws / me into waking / worlds away.” Ultimately these poems have telescopic reach: they transport us into distant worlds so completely we find ourselves reaching out to touch “a snapping branch this noon,” to trace “the granular deletions / of a mother’s / deep cartoon love.”
The finely-sculpted poems of The Currency animate the world of art and architecture, from Caravaggio and Frank Gehry to the contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan and the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Limosin. Exploring such works of art for how they lead us to pause for thought and breath―how they infuse mind and body in equal measure, helping us keep and pass the time we spend―Otremba poignantly articulates the hues of familial life.
The poems in Pax Americana are born out of the violent, fractious, and disillusioning opening to the 21st century. The decade of protracted wars and economic collapse―coupled with the polarizing of wealth and ideologies in this country―create the catalysts for this book. These are social poems that want to talk, and through talking hopefully make a space where people can meet and find meaning in each other.
No Doubt the Nameless delves the depths of elegy, yet moves at last into a positive reading of the human situation. Here are familiar rural characters, whose sturdiness and joy figure as strongly into Lea’s narratives, both overt and implied, as do their trials and misfortunes.
It's been said about Lea that “this extraordinary poet finds an elegance and beauty that can be glimpsed throughout his often harsh landscape.” This new collection evidences that skill. Here the natural world coexists with the poet’s boundless intellect. Lea’s keen narrative eye keeps us fully in the present as he reminisces on the past―which Lea unravels, chisels away at in search of a deeper understanding―so vivid it could be our own.
...Aleshire's reflective turn of mind, her profound engagement with nature, coupled with her gifts of music and insight, mark her as a poet to cherish and applaud. -- Colette Inez
Happily, Joan Aleshire’s fifth book of poems, examines a childhood of privilege and difference in a remarkable Baltimore family during the 1940s and ’50s. The collection offers vivid glimpses of 20th century history as it explores the trials, challenges and joys of relationships within the family and beyond that have influenced the developing consciousness of a particular self in the world.
This collection consists at its core of a sequence of poems that speak to the loss of the writer’s brother to suicide. These poems stun us by their restraint and simplicity, and by their astonishment that this life, so important to so many, could be extinguished in such a manner. Harrison’s poems are impeccably crafted and move through narrative seamlessly―dry, naive, vulnerable, always accessible.
Channeling the collection’s muse, jazz composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, Hemming the Water speaks to the futility of trying to mend or straighten a life that is constantly changing. Here the spiritual and the secular comingle in a “Fierce fragmentation, lonely tune.” Harvey inhabits, challenges, and explores the many facets of the female self―as daughter, mother, sister, wife, and artist. Every page is rich with Harvey’s rapturous music.
Brian Komei Dempster$15.95
Topaz examines the experiences of a Japanese American family separated and incarcerated in World War II prison camps and considers how this incarceration affected the family. Moreover, this collection delves into the lasting impact of this imprisonment on future generations. The speaker of these poems seeks to understand his identity―as son, father, and husband―as it intertwines with the past and present.
The poems in National Anthem, the fourth collection of poetry from critically-acclaimed poet and critic Kevin Prufer, are finely-studied short films about America in the 21st century. Set in an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic world that is disturbing because it is uncannily familiar, National Anthem chronicles the aftermath of the failure of imperial vision. Allowing Rome and America to bleed into one another, Prufer masterfully weaves the threads of history into an anthem that is as intimate as it is far-reaching.
In a Beautiful Country examines America’s suburbs and exurbs where “The thrown newspaper fails / to reach the steps.” Taking place beside hospital beds and amid outlet malls, within earshot of military bases and in the light of horror movies, these poems mourn the loss of parents, friends, and our sense of our nation. Turning to ballad-like rhythms, Prufer critiques romanticized visions of art while asserting its central role in citizenship and empire.
Churches explores the way our experience of the world is shaped through the stories we tell about ourselves. These poems braid multiple narratives that often take place in different times, or are seen through the eyes of various speakers. Here Prufer explores the interior and subjective nature of time as he engages with mortality, both as a cultural construct and a deeply personal, unarticulatable anxiety: “In this filtered light, / my brain is a nimbler thing, and strange. It loves / the slow derangements distance brings.”
Kevin Prufer$15.95 $14.67
Kevin Prufer’s How He Loved Them sets love in a fraught, paradoxical world where bombs explode, fields burn, and armies advance. With clear, compassionate eyes, Prufer finds powerful intimacy between fathers and sons, soldiers and civilians, the living and the (sometimes un)dead. An exceptional new work by a necessary voice. Praise for Kevin Prufer “...Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon.” ―David Orr, The New York Times, “Ten Favorite Poetry Books of the Year” “...Prufer creates stunning scenarios that observe the world from surprising angles….” ―Library Journal “...There is no other contemporary voice quite like his, and I believe that, taken as a whole, Kevin Prufer’s prognostic backward gaze may someday prove to have shown us where we were going before we got there.....” ―Judith Kitchen, The Georgia Review “Kevin Prufer is one of the most vital poets on his generation, saying important things about our culture in fearless, eloquent ways.” ―David Walker, Field: Contemporary Poetry & Poetics “Among the best poets in the USA....” ―The Notre Dame Review
The Man with Many Pens is about love―“a love that smells so much like blood”―and song―“a song that the oak leaves will not finish.” These poems examine how a single love or a single song contains multiple personalities and contradictory forces, tensions, and concordances.
Train Dance adopts the rhythm and return of the commute through the Hudson Valley into Manhattan as a motif for the echoes of memory and event that contour a life. Reflecting on the place of poetry amid the urban hustle―a way one might “Carry myself like a tune/ Into the chorus of the city”―Wells records a series of linked journeys in which a son comes to understands his mother’s death and writing engraves events in memory, retaining events as locations―station stops, as it were―to which one returns.
Within the world of Wunderkammer, or “cabinet of curiosities,” Cynthia Cruz archives the ruinous, the sparkling, the traumatic, and the decadent. These poems, through sensuous impressions, mimic what it’s like to wake from a dream only to realize you are still inside the dream. We encounter gluttony pinned against starvation―“ceiling high cream cakes, / I ran twelve miles in my ballet leotard” ― and the glamorous mixed with the grotesque ―“I follow a sequin / Thread of dead things.” Through “brutal music,” Wunderkammer grips at the edges of memory and chaos; these poems have “found the kill / And entered it.”
Cynthia Cruz$15.95 $14.67
How the End Begins juxtaposes the world’s seductions and incessant clamoring for more with the invisible world: the quiet, the call of the desert, and the pull to faith. The book chronicles this move toward faith and away from the “dingen” (things or stuff). Within the worlds of these poems are Orthodox monks, Emily Dickinson, anorexic patients inside a hospital ward, Larry Levis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Captain Beefheart, Henry Darger, Jean Genet, Goya, Karen Carpenter, Joan of Arc, and, of course, God. How the End Begins is a burning down, a kind of end of the world while, at the same time, a new, triumphant beginning.
Cynthia Cruz$15.95 $14.67
Like a series of slides from a film reel, the poems of Dregs reveal the ruin, remnants or dregs left over from the wars and economic and human inequalities of our world today. Praise for The Glimmering Room: “…an exquisite fever dream of drugs, anorexia and unwanted sex (in both senses of the word) populated by young women and men…who have lost all sense of where the edge is….” ―Dana Jennings, New York Times
Andrea Cohen’s poems search the shadow regions of yearning and loss, but they take surprising, sometimes meteoric leaps, landing in a place where brightness reigns. The voice in Unfathoming strives to upend the title: to both acknowledge mystery, and with wile and grace, comprehend it.
The poems in Furs Not Mine display Andrea Cohen’s masterful craft and lyricism and her keen wit. In Cohen’s elegiac shoals, we see how “Great griefs are antidotes / for lesser sorrows,” and in her strange, surprising narratives, we glimpse a man darting into traffic for a hubcap, “meaning to build his dream / vehicle from scrap.” These poems, too, have the feel of dreamy constructions, in which bliss “from a distance, can look like pain.” That’s the magic of this collection: it holds loss and promise in the same image―sometimes even the same word.
Allison Benis White$15.95
Out of an urgent need to grasp what it means to lose a loved one to suicide, these poems fixate on the physical as a means of exploring the intangible though paradoxically palpable emotion of grief. Small Porcelain Head metaphorically explores the stark stillness of loss through the inanimate quality of dolls and revisits lines from a suicide note as a means of final "conversation."
Allison Benis White$15.95 $14.67
The speaker in Please Bury Me in This grieves the death of her father and the loss of several women to suicide while contemplating her own death and the nature of language as a means of human connection that transcends our temporal lives. This book is also concerned with the intergenerational trauma of the children of Holocaust survivors.
In the Harvard Review, critic Christopher Bock writes that “…Four Way Books is known for taking risks with aesthetically challenging and important work, and Tobin seems more ambitious than many of his contemporaries….” Second Things is Daniel Tobin’s fourth book of poems, and his second collection with Four Way Books, with a third forthcoming in 2010. Following 2005’s The Narrows, which traces an Irish-American boy-to-manhood in lush poems reminiscent of both Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, Second Things evinces a tone that is wholly new.
Daniel Tobin’s fifth book, Belated Heavens, spans from prehistory to modern Manhattan, Neanderthals “cowering in caves” to a man snoring in Penn Station as if he’s “swallowed an espresso machine.” Tobin delves into timeless themes of violence, destruction and endurance, his poems running the gamut from form to free verse as they offer the reader an underlying hope, a tentative belief, that, yes, we are surviving―somehow, thank heavens. An award-winning Irish American poet and scholar, Daniel Tobin’s assorted iconographic choices will hook every reader, whether by poems about environmental consciousness, murdered heretics, meal bugs or the caves of Lascaux. Throughout the writing is an ever-present violence that at times is as quiet and slow as “an endless tongue of water licking seams / where stone foundation meets concrete floor,” while other times is as brute and in your face as a “village idiot’s shredded legs.” Violence, however, is not the main concern of this collection, but rather how humanity thrives despite the volatility of the world.
Coming of age in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge, these poems explore what it is to be an Irish American Catholic; a dutiful son of hard drinking, sometimes hilarious and sometimes tragic parents; a son of Brooklyn; and, too, deeply rooted to the country of his ancestors, Ireland. Dark, funny, and sometimes troubling, these poems, always accessible, track a life well lived and felt.
Unified by its theme of metamorphosis, these poems descend deeply into subjects as divergent as a jetty that disappears during high tide, to a talking parasitical head, to a sandlot baseball legend, to a famine road in Ireland, to Orpheus, to Wittgenstein, to a murdered poet and his wife, and finally to grave personal loss, tracing through all of its many attentions the thread that binds the physical to the metaphysical―a psychic passage from death back to life again.
From Nothing, a book-length poem in 33 sections, explores the conflicted and exemplary life of Belgian physicist and priest Georges Lemaître, known as “the father of the Big Bang,” and his life’s profound implications, through what John Barth called the principle of metaphoric means: “the writer’s investiture in as many aspects of the text as possible with emblematic significance.” Though associative and even multivalent in its orchestration, From Nothing weaves its many frequencies into a resonant whole.
C. Dale Young$14.95
Finalist for the Academy of American Poets' James Laughlin Award Finalist for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry Finalist for the Lambda Book Award in Poetry Drawing on traditional forms including the villanelle and pantoum, and writing with an ear for a beautiful, resounding rhythm, C. Dale Young investigates the lessons of the trainee doctor and documents the experiences of the practicing physician, remarking on the ways medicine alone is not enough: "Do not let a man // abandon hope," says Saint Luke. And, as with the remarkable long sequence, "Triptych at the Edge of Sight," these are also poems of intimacy, depicting with rich color and poignant contemplation the way art struggles to "capture [. . .] on canvas. / Memory, do not fail me. Let me try again."
C. Dale Young$15.95
Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Winner of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship In Torn, C. Dale Young continues his earnest investigations into the human, depicted as both spiritual being and a process, as "the soul and its attendant concerns" and as a device that "requires charge, small / electrical impulses / racing through our bodies." What Young tells and shows us, what his poems let us hear, does not aim to reassure or soothe. These are poems written from "white and yellow scraps / covered with words and words and more words-- // I may never find the right words to describe this."
C. Dale Young$15.95
Winner of the Hanes Award given by the Fellowship of Southern Writers Finalist for the 2017 Lambda Book Award Finalist for 2016 Julie Suk Award (best poetry collection from an independent literary press) Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Winner of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship The Halo is quasi-autobiography about a man who has wings and wants desperately to simply be human. Tracking from adolescence through adulthood, it explores an accident that temporarily paralyzes him and exposes him to human weakness all the way to his transformation into something more powerful than even he realizes. It explores a personal evolution from being prey to becoming the hunter. Praise for C. Dale Young "Young's poems are so fierce and serrated." --Jeff Gordinier, New York Times Book Review "Young is a doctor as well as a poet, and [his work] demonstrates a skilled physician's combination of empathy and formal precision." --David Orr, NPR "Sometimes the ability to convey information compactly and quickly has moral grace. [Young's] writing can put garrulous narration or evasive speechifying to shame." --Robert Pinsky, The Washington Post
C. Dale Young$17.95
Finalist for the 2019 John Gardner Fiction Book Award Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Winner of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Winner of the Hanes Award given by the Fellowship of Southern Writers A novel told in short stories, The Affliction is an astounding fiction debut by an award-winning poet full of memorable characters across America and the Caribbean. Young beautifully weaves together the elaborate stories of many while holding together a clear focus: people are not always as they seem. "The Affliction is an exhilarating collection..." --Laura van den Berg "These tales treat life-and-death matters with a beautifully eloquent fervor, and, like the stories of Julio Cortázar, they remind us of how varied and unpredictable short stories, like the world itself, can be." --Charles Baxter
Gregory Pardlo$15.95 $14.67
From Epicurus to Sam Cooke, the Daily News to Roots, Digest draws from the present and the past to form an intellectual, American identity. In poems that forge their own styles and strategies, we experience dialogues between the written word and other art forms. Within this dialogue we hear Ben Jonson, we meet police K-9s, and we find children negotiating a sense of the world through a father’s eyes and through their own.
Reginald Dwayne Betts$15.95 $14.67
Bastards of the Reagan Era is a challenge, confronting realities that frame an America often made invisible. Within these poems, we see the city as distant lover, we hear “the sound that comes from all / the hurt & want that leads a man to turn his back to the world.” We see that and we see each reason why we return to what pains us.
The title Blood Labors is a double entendre: labors as both the thing and the action. Split into four sections, which act as musical movements more than section breaks, there are poems about space and matter, the human impulse to create, and the artist’s work.