Southern Illinois University Press

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry

John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

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Crab Orchard Series in Poetry

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Consolation Miracle

Chad Davidson

Consolation Miracle is a book of visceral, image-driven poems that search for the miraculous in the seemingly ordinary. This collection fashions art out of artless objects as a consolation, or perhaps compensation, for their smallness. Yawns and pears, cockroaches and crows resonate against historically conflated backdrops, while our own hands seem suddenly strange as they hide themselves in our pockets, balance a burning cigarette between two fingers, or grip the gun that shot Lincoln. Other poems address the destruction of empire, the end of old Hollywood, and the hyperbolic fizzling out of entire centuries. Here, consolation miracles are rarely the ones sought after, yet they radiate in their neglect. Davidson’s poems help us understand the inner life of cows, imagine the plight of a banished Kama Sutra illustrator, speculate about Cleopatra’s lingerie. With a title borrowed from Gabriel García Márquez, Consolation Miracle contains a magical realism for the twenty-first century.

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Crossroads and Unholy Water

Marilene Phipps

Marilene Phipps’s poetry invites the reader to share sharp slices of Caribbean experience: Haiti is both stage and backdrop for people who move in various strata of the social scheme and through the three stages of life, in lieu of answers to the Sphinx’s riddle. Through voices, nostalgic and tender, denouncing and shrill, we journey to a mythologizing Caribbean land populated with people whose dramatic intensity and fights for life are turned into sometimes funny, sometimes disquieting, and always richly evocative, palpable poetry.

 

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Dark Alphabet

Jennifer Maier

In works whose subjects range from the religious to the carnal, the whimsical to the foreboding, Jennifer Maier’s debut collection of poems, Dark Alphabet, explores the everyday mysteries of our common experience with humor, lucidity, and an unblinking yet compassionate eye. Whether occasioned by a song overheard on the car radio, a packet of risqué postcards from the 1920's, a conversation with a dead parent, or the behavior of ducks in mating season, each poem sets off on a journey that ranges far from its origins, arriving with the reader in a clearing at dusk, in a place of wise good humor and somber grace.

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Errata

Lisa Fay Coutley

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Fabulae

Joy Katz

In Fabulae, Joy Katz interrogates the physical world, constructing a sensual and striking autobiography. She turns to the familiarity and strangeness of the female body, its surfaces and inner workings, often, although her subjects range from Thomas Jefferson to an Adam and Eve plagued with obsessive-compulsive disorder to the streets of New York’s diamond district. The poems, by turns funny and philosophical, point to how we suffer from desire: the danger, she writes, is that we might love the world “like heaven and be lost.” But they come back to delight in a flawed world especially the palpable beauty of words, and even the erotic shapes of the letterforms that make them up.

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For Dust Thou Art

Timothy Liu

Running the gamut from traditional to radical forms, Timothy Liu’s sixth collection of poems, For Dust Thou Art, continues the trajectory of his previous books but extends his lyrical range. The centerpiece of the volume’s tripartite structure is a meditation on the events surrounding 9/11 and its aftermath. In his poems, Liu explores what a twenty-first century American “poetry of witness” might look like and protests the charge that the poetic generation to which Liu belongs is stymied by a kind of jaded amorality. Whether taking on public spectacle or contemplating the fallout of a private life, these meditations move forward and backward through time, seeking spiritual consolation within a material world.

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From the Fire Hills

Chad Davidson

In From the Fire Hills, poet Chad Davidson shows us an Italy that is far from the romanticized notions of sun-drenched fields and self-discovery. Instead we see a maelstrom of chaos and contradiction, a place where the frenetic pace of modernity is locked in a daily struggle with recalcitrant history.

This autobiographical collection explores the myriad ways in which Italian culture survives its own parodies and evokes a modern ferocity that harkens back to Italy’s barbarian past. As the narrator, rendered vulnerable by language, embarks on his journey, lines of location, time, and perception blur. From the siren song of Dante’s grave to the heights of San Luca, from streets where policemen with Uzis tread a hair’s breadth away from the macabre remains of Capuchin monks, Davidson’s Italy is a study in contrast between the contemporary and the classical, the sacred and the profane. Within these poems sensual and savage revelations unfold, exposing new, uncanny, and often uncomfortable spaces to explore in this well-traveled realm of Western imagination.

Throughout the volume loom “the fire hills”: the scorched mountains of Sicily in summer; the memories of Italians living near the Gothic Line outside Bologna, where the Germans dug in and received heavy bombing at the close of World War II; even the wildfires igniting the San Gabriel foothills in southern California; all the way back to the burning city of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid. As the ash settles and the smoke clears, we realize that what we remember is often just remains, shells, and burned out wreckage, as if there were another type of memory.

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Furious Lullaby

Oliver de la Paz

Furious Lullaby is both a celebration of and a eulogy to the body in the twenty-first century. The collection, which examines the larger concepts of salvation and temptation in a world of blossoming strife, includes a series of aubades – dramatic poems culminating with the separation of lovers at dawn. The lovers suffer a metaphysical crisis, seeking to know what is good, what is evil, and how to truly know the difference. Knowing, however, invites the terrible into their world. The Devil, a seductive trickster, haunts the landscape as a voice who dares each inquisitor to learn about mortality, morality, the beautiful, and the unspeakable through direct experience. Furious Lullaby offers a departure from the lighter prose poetry of de la Paz’s Names above Houses and preserves the author’s concern with the nature of human grace.  

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Glaciology

Jeffrey Skinner

“Once I walked a thin rail through a glacier” begins “Shattered Bio,” the first poem in Glaciology, Jeffrey Skinner’s latest collection of poetry. Filled with images that slide into one another in a dreamlike way, from the “squeak of pine trees in a forest” to “pinwheel, the baby’s hand,” the poem provides a precise way of seeing how layers of tenderness and danger melt into one another, inhabiting the same world.

At the center of the book, the eighteen-part title poem “Glaciology” takes readers to the core of misunderstandings as it juxtaposes the work of a glaciologist with fractured language, misread cues, and a literalness that defies conventional explanation. The lives of the glaciers are reported with a careful, scientific language that keeps readers emotionally at bay from the effects of their demise, and the speaker comments, “I consider language / mistreated these days, asked to explain itself / to justify at the same time it bears / meaning, to own up / to creation at the moment of use / only, and only that meaning.”

The third section of the book further explores the tensions of life and death in ways both whimsical—by focusing on a fly, a vintage clock, rabbits, and Poland, among other subjects—and deeply serious. In the long poem “Event Horizon,” Skinner takes readers into an accident and its aftermath, which brushes too close to death. By the end of the book, however, a new focus comes into view with the birth of a grandchild in “All Things Move toward Disorder Except the Newly Created.”

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Gold Bee

Bruce Bond

In his collection Gold Bee, Bruce Bond takes his cue from Wallace Stevens’s Harmonium, bringing a finely honed talent to classic poetic questions concerning music, the march of progress, and the relationship between reality and the imagination.

Blending humor and pathos, Bond examines the absurdities of contemporary life:  “The modern air so full of phantom wires, / hard to tell the connected from the confused / who yak out loud to their beleaguered angels.” At other times, his intricately crafted lyrics weave together myth and history to explore the various roles music and art play in the human experience, as when Bond’s poems meditate on Orphean themes, descending to the underworld of loneliness, commercialism, or death and emerging with hard (and hard-won) truths.

Addressing broadly ranging topics—from a retelling of the story of Artephius, the fabled father of alchemy, to a meditation on a fashion ad’s wind machine—Bond’s voice is always penetrating in its examination, yet wondering in the face of beauty, conjuring for the reader a world where music has “the power / to move stones, not far, but far enough.”

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