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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Heavenly Bodies

Cynthia Huntington

In this blistering collection of lyric poems, Cynthia Huntington gives an intimate view of the sexual revolution and rebellion in a time before the rise of feminism. Heavenly Bodies is a testament to the duality of sex, the twin seductiveness and horror of drug addiction, and the social, political, and personal dramas of America in the 1960s.

From the sweetness of purloined blackberries to the bitter taste of pills, the ginger perfume of the Hawaiian Islands to the scream of the winter wind, Huntington’s fearless and candid poems offer a feast for the senses that is at once mystical and earthy, cynical and surreal. Echoing throughout are some of the most famous—and infamous—voices of the times: Joan Baez and Charles Manson, Frank Zappa and Betty Friedan. Jinns and aliens beckon while cities burn and revolutionaries thunder for change. At the center is the semiautobiographical Suzy Creamcheese, sensual and rebellious, both almighty and powerless in her sexuality. 

Achingly tender yet brutally honest, Heavenly Bodies is an unflinching reflection on the most personal of physical and emotional journeys.

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Hijra

Hala Alyan

In her third poetry collection, Hijra, Hala Alyan creates poems of migration and flight reflecting and bearing witness to the haunting particulars in her transnational journey as well as those of her mother, her aunts, and the female ancestors in Gaza and Syria.
 
The reader sees war, diaspora, and immigration, and hears the marginalized voices of women of color. The poems use lyrical diction and striking imagery to evoke the weight of an emotional and visceral journey. They grow and build in length and form, reflecting the gains the women in the poems make in re-creating selfhood through endurance and strength.
 
In prose, narrative, and confessional-style poems, Alyan reflects on how physical space is refashioned, transmitted, and remembered. Her voice is distinct, fresh, relevant, and welcoming.

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Holding Everything Down

William Notter

William Notter’s stunning collection Holding Everything Down explores the everyday struggles, triumphs, and desires of rural Americans. With disarming humor and remarkable honesty, Notter delves into the most personal longings of those who inhabit America’s countrysides: places bound by secrets and ghosts, where joy is discovered in the most unlikely of locations, and even the land itself has a story to tell. These highly accessible poems traverse the world of weekend rodeos, lonely highways, and windswept battlefields; they follow the twin paths of addiction and obsession, and the trials of newfound sobriety. Connections are forged beneath weathered ceilings, and love can be found over a plate of barbecue. Also explored are the depths of humanity’s relationship with nature and freedom, be it the smell of freshly threshed wheat, the purple thunderheads of an approaching storm, or a sunset viewed from Mississippi’s highest peak.

 

From the muddy deltas of the deep South to the crags of the Big Horn Mountains, Notter’s deeply candid portraits transcend stereotypes to expose an often unseen side of Americana. Hairdresser or handyman, rodeo rider or rancher’s wife, each voice ultimately echoes with the most human of experiences, unveiling the common threads that bind us to our world and to each other.

 

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Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love

Wally Swist

In Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, poet Wally Swist blends themes of love and epiphany to lead readers into a more conscious interaction with the world around them. These ethereal poems call upon a spirituality unfettered to any specific religion, yet universal and potent in its scope, offering a window through which life can be not only viewed but also truly experienced.

This luminescent collection illustrates the joys to be found in the everyday world and the power of existence. Unveiled here are the twin edges of love and madness; the quiet mysteries and revelations of a New England night or the glittering spark of snowdrops; the sharp scents of sugar maple and cinnamon; and the rustle of a junco’s wings. From the restoration and peace of silence or the rush of a brook, to spiraling hawks and Botticelli’s “The Annunciation,” Swist’s poems linger somewhere between the earthbound and the sublime.

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If No Moon

Moira Linehan

If No Moon by award-winning author Moira Linehan documents the effects of profound loss and the dark withdrawal into grief. Wherever the author turns—the landscape of her backyard in Massachusetts, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky, the museums of Florence, or the cliffs of Inishmor in Ireland—she sees only the geography of emptiness. Crossovers between craft and art, form and voice, knitting and memory, recur throughout the poems. Lying within the tradition of narrative poetry, elegy, and the lyric, the collection reveals the mysterious journey of return. Coming full circle to find again the lyrical and the transcendent within the everyday, beauty eventually wins out. If No Moon, accessible to all who have or will experience loss, is the voice of one who has come to understand that there is no other work but starting over. 

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In Search of the Great Dead

Richard Cecil

With grim humor and humorous grimness, In Search of the Great Dead engages the great themes of poetry: death and fame.

 

The title poem of this collection records Richard Cecil's quest for the tombs of the famous dead. At first the search leads him on a tour of famous European tombstones—the grave of Chateaubriand in St. Malo, the shared tomb of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, Yeats's old Celtic cross in Sligo—but gradually it expands into areas where all the tombs have been erased by time or vandalism—the tombs of Seneca and Lucan, and all of the great dead poets whose names have been lost. These once famous, now unknown poets lead Cecil to consider those graveyards full of anonymous dead—the civil war soldiers buried under tiny stones with numbers instead of names inscribed on them. Are they more anonymous than the once famous, now forgotten "great" dead?

 

Though Cecil is wryly aware of his own obscurity, his poems are strangely optimistic and life-affirming. His reply to Emily Dickinson's question: "I'm Nobody—are you / Nobody, too?" is an enthusiastic yes! In Search of the Great Dead conveys the joy of being Nobody and the shy, almost buried hope that someday (after death), he might become Somebody.

 

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In the Absence of Clocks

Jacob Shores-Arguello

In the fascinating collection of poems, In the Absence of Clocks, poet Jacob Shores-Arguello takes readers on an illuminating voyage through Ukrainian life. Set during the turmoil of the 2004 Orange Revolution, when the country trembled in the wake of political corruption and public outrage, Shores-Arguello’s lyrics of a revolution provide a glimpse into a world at once foreign and familiar.

Throughout the collection are the iconic images and myriad juxtapositions of Ukrainian life. wolves howling in the snow and bakers pounding early-morning loaves of bread; farmlands and cities alike rocked by political transformation; gypsies and protesters; opulent images of Byzantium and the concrete ghosts of Chernobyl—all meet here at the crossroads of East and West, democracy and communism, reality and mythology. As the narrator travels across the Ukraine, he does much more than cross the distances between Horlivka and Odessa or Kiev and the Black Sea. As the tides of change swirl around him, they mirror his own search for a cultural identity and history.

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Incarnate Grace

Moira Linehan

In her collection Incarnate Grace, poet Moira Linehan explores, questions, and ultimately celebrates her attempt to live in the temple of the present.

After learning she has breast cancer, the poet struggles to live an examined life. Alienated and estranged from her own body, she turns her cancer into “these binoculars, / this new way of looking,” and uses it as a way of fixing herself firmly within the moment. As she travels Ireland and the Pacific Northwest, her busy mind moves from the knot in her breast to the knots in her knitting to the illuminated knots of The Book of Kells to the tossing, knotted surface of the sea; from the margins of her surgery—clean but not ideal—to the margins of illuminated manuscripts. She links the mundane to the mythic, intertwining connections between scripture and nature, storms and loss, winter and light, breast cancer and embroidery. As she returns to her home on a small pond in Massachusetts, she takes with her the fruits of her travels: the incarnate grace of the ordinary.  

Vivid and compelling, Incarnate Grace finds beauty in the worst of circumstances and redemption in the fabric of daily life.

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Lacemakers

Claire McQuerry

In Lacemakers, Claire McQuerry investigates the timeless questions of relationships, of loss and longing, and of environment both natural and manmade. This informal yet haunting collection juxtaposes a myriad of perspectives—public and personal, interior and exterior, sacred and secular—to explore the fathomless mysteries that abound between one human and another. From the metallic hum of the air conditioner to the thrumming of quail wings in the Arizona desert, from the necklace of brake lights on the freeway to the more dangerous and intimate highways of the human heart, McQuerry explores the impact of our environments, both urban and natural, on humankind. Spirituality clashes with modernity in the holiest of places, and we are relentlessly confronted with the irreconcilable otherness of our fellow man. Above all, Lacemakers returns obsessively to separations, offering searing insight into our inability to truly know another person, meditating on the subtle abysses that eternally divide us from others.

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The Last Predicta

Chad Davidson

The Last Predicta is Chad Davidson's searing collection of poetry dedicated to endings of all varieties. From odes to the corporate cornucopia of Target and the aggressive cheer of a Carnival cruise, to emotive examinations of Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew or flies circling a putrescent bowl of forgotten fruit, Davidson weaves a lyrical web of apocalyptic scenarios and snapshots of pop culture. Throughout the volume appear cataclysms large and small, whether the finality of a minute passed or the deaths of a thousand swans at Seneca Lake in 1912. Images of King Kong, Starburst candies, and the Brady Bunch swim with mythological figures, Roman heroes, and dead animals as Davidson deftly explores the relationship between the mundane and the profound. At the center of the collection sits the Predicta television itself, "the lives blooming there in Technicolor," at once futuristic and nostalgic in its space age prophecy.

Moving in their very simplicity, these poems resonate with discoveries that belie their seemingly ordinary wellsprings. Chad Davidson's stunning collection repeatedly explores the moment of revelation and all its accompanying aftermaths. The Last Predicta leads readers to ponder all manner of predictions, endings, and everything that follows.

 

 

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