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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The Laughter of Adam and Eve

Jason Sommer

Near the beginning, just after the fall, was laughter—at least as Jason Sommer imagines it. In the title poem, Eve catches Adam’s hilarity over what passes for a tree outside of Eden, their laughter a heady combination of longing, defiance, and perhaps even relief, through which they find they now possess “a knowledge of evil that is good,” an understanding that will carry them through life after paradise. Through settings mythical, historical and biblical, through characters that range from Gunga Din to St. Kevin of Glendalough, the poems in this book often search out meaning in the tracing of origins: of a bird’s song, of laughter, of a word, of language itself.  Poems explore the source of the word brouhaha, the song of the “resignation bird,” and the dangerous way a poem of Anna Akhmatova enters the world, under the eyes and ears of Stalin’s secret police, escaping the house arrest its author must endure.




In The Laughter of Adam and Eve, Sommer speaks from a multitude of voices and perspectives, in short, formal lyrics as well as longer free-verse narratives. From the archetypal parents of us all, down through anonymous voices, throughout these pages, women and men speak to—and of—each other, in many roles and relations—as lover and beloved, as child and parent, as dreamer and dreamt of. The poems attempt to travel beyond the traditional binary in search of the common thread that binds us to one another. Perhaps chief among them is story: whether recasting myth so that Pygmalion and Narcissus become a single figure or using an Appalachian tale retold as a message, lover to lover, these poems narrate, while engaging deeply with those special properties that poetry can bring to story.

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Lizzie Borden in Love

Poems in Women's Voices

Julianna Baggott

Women’s voices offering an intimate view into women’s lives

Lizzie Borden in Love, a collection of poems by national bestselling author Julianna Baggott, offers poignant commentary in the voices of women as varied as Mary Todd Lincoln and Monica Lewinsky. The poems often focus on a particular moment in life: Katherine Hepburn discovers the dead body of her brother in an attic, or painter Mary Cassatt mourns the failure of her eyesight. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes ecstatic, the poems in this collection never fail the trust of the subjects of their intimate portrayals

 

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Millennial Teeth

Dan Albergotti

Both bleak and bewildering, Millennial Teeth, the visceral new collection by poet Dan Albergotti, maps a contradictory journey filled with longing and dread, cynicism and hope. A heady mix of traditional forms and more experimental verse, Albergotti’s volume lures readers inexorably into the poet’s obsessions with mystery, doubt, ephemerality, and silence.

The poetry in Millennial Teeth will feel both refreshingly new and strangely familiar to Albergotti’s audience. Some poems pay direct tribute to such literary luminaries as Wallace Stevens and Philip Larkin, while others give nods to icons of pop culture, from Radiohead to Roman Polanski. The narrator muses on the resurrection of Christina the Astonishing, the works of Coleridge, and the mindless duties of minor players in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Yet these familiar faces are not our friends; they are juxtaposed with the heartbreaking apocalypses, both natural and man-made, that have plagued the world since the first plane flew into the World Trade Center. A reluctant witness to such events, the narrator of these poems attempts to navigate his own personal crises, including the mental illness and dementia of loved ones and the inability to connect with others, from the darkness of a personal orbit far from the sun. As he vehemently rejects the notions of religious succor, immortality, and the passive acceptance of fate, he simultaneously yearns to be proven wrong. Yet despite his trials, Albergotti’s narrator maintains a gallows humor and wry insight that balance his despair.

A riveting exploration of the all-too-human struggle between faith and doubt, skepticism and obsession, Millennial Teeth has both heart and bite in plenty.

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Misery Prefigured

J. Allyn Rosser

In her second collection of poems, J. Allyn Rosser explores the human condition in all its gloriously valiant pathos. Misery Prefigured dwells on our continual reinventions of self and world and the restless dynamic that vibrates between them.Whether contemplating a failed marriage, a visit from God, or a pearl dropped into a bottle of Prell shampoo, Rosser's wry yet impassioned eye looks hard for a habitable and abiding truth.  Alternating between deadpan and dead serious, these poems are often darkly funny, exposing the contradictions inherent in every desire. Misery Prefigured is fueled by a cocky, unsentimental determination to make some consolatory sense of what passes for reality.

 

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A Murmuration of Starlings

Jake Adam York

A Murmuration of Starlings elegizes the martyrs of the civil rights movement, whose names are inscribed on the stone table of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Individually, Jake Adam York’s poems are elegies for individuals; collectively, they consider the violence of a racist culture and the determination to resist that racism.

York follows Sun Ra, a Birmingham jazz musician whose response to racial violence was to secede from planet Earth, considers the testimony in the trial of J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant for the murder of Emmet Till in 1955, and recreates events of Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Throughout the collection, an invasion of starlings images the racial hatred and bloodshed. While the 1950s spawned violence, the movement in the early 1960s transformed the language of brutality and turned the violence against the violent, says York. So, the starlings, first produced by violence, become instruments of resistance.

York’s collection responds to and participates in recent movements to find and punish the perpetrators of the crimes that defined the civil rights movement. A Murmuration of Starlings participates in the search for justice, satisfaction, and closure.

 

 

 

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Muse

Susan Aizenberg

Muse, the first full-length collection from poet Susan Aizenberg, brings together poems of personal history, elegy, and the complex lives of artists, writers, and “ordinary” people, in an exploration of the relationship between art and life, esthetics and ethics. She is sharp-eyed in purpose, trying to understand “what love is” in a continual shifting between loss and knowledge. While “there is no other world than this one” for Aizenberg, nevertheless she finds a world of affirmation. Aizenberg sings elegant blues, keeps a perfect balance between elaboration and restraint with formal skill that is both impressive and consoling, reminding us that poetry is a form of intelligence in which music creates a world full of mystery and depth.

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Names Above Houses

Oliver de la Paz

In Names above Houses, Oliver de la Paz uses both prose and verse poems to create the magical realm of Fidelito Recto—a boy who wants to fly—and his family of Filipino immigrants. Fidelito’s mother, Maria Elena, tries to keep her son grounded while struggling with her own moorings. Meanwhile, Domingo, Fidelito's fisherman father, is always at sea, even when among them. From the archipelago of the Philippines to San Francisco, horizontal and vertical movements shape moments of displacement and belonging for this marginalized family. Fidelito approaches life with a sense of wonder, finding magic in the mundane and becoming increasingly uncertain whether he is in the sky or whether his feet are planted firmly on the ground.

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No Acute Distress

Jennifer Richter

Jennifer Richter’s penetrating second collection of poems, No Acute Distress, introduces us to the unspoken struggles and unanticipated epiphanies of illness and motherhood, subjects rarely explored together in contemporary poetry. The first poem of each section borrows from a classic joke form—one begins, “An intractable migraine walks into a bar”—to consider the thin line this mother walks between the tragic and comic: debilitating pain met with increasingly absurd and desperate medical treatments.

Richter seasons her work with irony from the start, titling the book’s opening poem, “Pleasant, healthy-appearing adult white female in no acute distress.” As the collection progresses, the speaker’s growing children bring new, wider perspective to the poems; the heart of the book opens up to embrace the adolescents’ increasing self-sufficiency and the body’s vibrant re-emergence into health.

No Acute Distress offers readers fresh language grounded in a masterful use of form, speaking with an urgency that acknowledges chronic pain’s cumulative damage to the body and spirit, and with an openness that allows for hope and the inexplicable on the path to victorious recovery.

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Oblivio Gate

Sean Nevin

 

Suffused with lyrical grace and the language of loss, Sean Nevin's Oblivio Gate explores the mental and emotional struggles of Solomon, a veteran battling the onslaught of Alzheimer's disease. Set against Solomon's memories of the Korean War, Nevin's poems draw us into an intimate view of a man's confusion as everything he knows slowly unravels around him, leaving him abandoned in the suddenly unfamiliar landscape of his own mind. Readers experience first- hand Solomon's dismay as he watches himself inexorably slip away from reality, fighting to hold on to the shreds of his identity. Intertwined with his perspective are the voices of loved ones and caregivers who can only watch helplessly as Solomon is ravaged by the illness. Also central to the collection are the figures of Aurora and Tithonus, the famously doomed couple of mythology whose own happiness was destroyed by the inevitability of age and the betrayal of the body. But if this evocative portrait of Alzheimer's disease is tragic, it is also at moments inspiring.

Oblivio Gate reveals not only what is lost, but also what is found, what is pure, and even what is funny in our fleeting lives. Ultimately, Sean Nevin crafts an unforgettable collection of contemporary poetry that yields heartbreaking insight into memory, the mind, and an affliction that has left millions lost and looking for themselves.

 

 

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On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year

Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lady Murasaki wrote in The Tale of Genji that thirty-seven is “a dangerous year” for women. Evoking the styles of Murasaki and other women writers of the Heian-period Japanese court, Lee Ann Roripaugh presents a collection of confessional poems charting the course of that perilous year. Roripaugh, in both an homage to and a dialogue with women writers of the past, explores the trials of women facing the treacherous waters of time while losing none of the grace and decadence of femininity. Often calling upon the passing of the seasons and revelations of nature, these lyrically elegant poems chronicle the dangers and delights of a range of issues facing contemporary women—from bisexuality and biracial culture and identity, to restless nights and lingering memories of the past. The pleasures of the senses collide with parallels of time and the natural world; tangible solitude lies down beside wistful memories of relationships gone by. What is ultimately revealed is both heartbreaking and illuminating. At once provocative, humorous, and bittersweet, On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year is a pillow book for the twenty-first century, providing a candid and whimsical look into the often tumultuous universe of the modern woman.

 

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