Absolute Animal


Product Details

$19.00  $17.67
University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
6.8 X 9.5 X 0.3 inches | 0.79 pounds
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About the Author

Rachel DeWoskin is the author of five critically acclaimed novels: Banshee; Someday We Will Fly; Blind; Big Girl Small; and Repeat After Me; and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing; along with the poetry collection Two Menus, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Her essays, poems, reviews, and translations have appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Sunday Times Magazine of London, Condé Nast Traveler, Asian Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, Agni, Ploughshares, New Delta Review, New Orleans Review, Seneca Review, and numerous journals and anthologies. She is on the core creative writing faculty at the University of Chicago and affiliated faculty in Jewish and East Asian Studies. DeWoskin also serves on the national steering committee of Writers for Democratic Action (WDA).


"Tender, probing, philosophical and brilliantly wrought, DeWoskin's poems meditate on boundaries and metamorphoses, on the gaps, real and imagined, separating us from our natural home. What does it mean to be the creature who creates the language by which we define our world? 'While I was writing this, everything changed, ' notes DeWoskin as she explores impermanence, and the paradoxes of living in time: 'we made time, time made us.' Accepting the fluidity of being, however, liberates the imagination: 'let me be not in a garden but wild, giant, omnipotent.' Sestinas, sonnets and golden shovels are just a few of the containers DeWoskin deploys to suggest that shape-shifting and formal change may well be our only constants, and a clue to our essential nature. Haunting. Gorgeous."--Askold Melnyczuk, author of "The Man Who Would Not Bow: And Other Stories"
"In her ravishing second book of poems, absolute animal, DeWoskin collapses binaries: Mind/body, self/other, human/ animal, past/present blur and collide in lines both prescient and gripping. The opening poem, anthrosphere, aptly names the world 'a map of small blue trouble.' The poem demands an answer to the unanswerable, 'ask anthro how it came to cover bio, ' The experience of reading the book ignites brain and body in the speaker's urgent search for beauty in the midst of the horrors of the environment and the self. And the poet delivers in lines both surprising and quotidian, 'bright broccoli in the trash, I cherished that first lie, / my baby, three: how did that get there anyway?' Like the prairie vole, the ladybug, the turkey vulture, that appear in these pages, we're trapped in our biology. Yet the body can connect; our minds terrify and betray us. In her poem 'some girls' she writes, 'hush the tempting clatter of bone / that wants to be exposed for one slow moment let your body be home.' The only certainty is that the 'home' of our flesh will vanish. Miraculously, Dewoskin eschews nihilism and relishes joy in verse of startling imagery, emotional depth, and precision."
--Thea Goodman, author of "The Invented Mother"
"An urgent, vulnerable time capsule into the future, DeWoskin is witness to the beauty here and now. She is asking, Why should we lose all the beauty we have witnessed along with ourselves? Does beauty get lost in extinguished memories? Where does beauty go to live? A response is that beauty lives in absolute animal, and DeWoskin's gift to us is that beauty can live on in us too, if we choose."--Mukoma wa Ngugi, author of "Unbury Our Dead with Song"
"The momentum of the poems in absolute animal sustains a fever pitch across the pages. A master of the switchback line, DeWoskin unleashes the ferocity, the poem's heart matter, while harnessing tumult through form and rhyme. . . . These poems wrestle between what is feral and what is tame, what is unfettered and what is domestic. This is a ravishing book of poems that dazzle and shine."--Elise Paschen, author of The Nightlife
"'We've all been ancient before, aware of what we can't know, ' writes DeWoskin in absolute animal, a volume that grapples with the most critical issues of human existence and our current historical moment with a stunningly original imagination and a muscularity of language. Whether wrestling with the isolation of the pandemic, or climate change, or women's health, or global relations, the poems speak with an elegant ferocity. The paradox of the volume's title understands well how much animal inhabits us as humans and how much we resist that knowledge. Many of the poems reinvigorate the sonnet form in a kind of lyric scream that bears witness to and rages against both our mortality, and the ruin human presence continues to inflict upon our planet. And yet, all of the poems love fiercely, without reservation, beyond grief and the grave. DeWoskin's brilliant collection celebrates living with tenacity, a deliberate joy that I find thrilling, consoling, and for which I am deeply grateful."--Robin Davidson, author of "Mrs. Schmetterling: Poems"