Alive: New and Selected Poems

Alive: New and Selected Poems

by Elizabeth Willis

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Overview

Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

American poet Elizabeth Willis has written an electrifying body of work spanning more than twenty years. With a wild and inquisitive lyricism, Willis—“one of the most outstanding poets of her generation” (Susan Howe)—draws us into intricate patterns of thought and feeling. The intimate and civic address of these poems is laced with subterranean affinities among painters, botanists, politicians, witches and agitators. Coursing through this work is the clarity and resistance of a world that asks the poem to rise to this, to speak its fury.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

03/16/2015
Willis (Address) has been enthralling, challenging, and frustrating the poetry cognoscenti with hermetic, allusive, scholarly, and startlingly opaque verse and prose since the early 1990s: “When I point to the island I mean a body on a map. Think about the heart: it doesn’t have to form a sentence.” Her prose blocks, strings of sentences, and short, dense lines tend to reach toward the mind before the heart, and this selected volume, her first, might engage more (and baffle fewer) readers if it is read backward, the newest poems first. The evocative declarations within her prose poems—especially in 2006’s Meteoric Flowers—belie the evasions their imagined voices imply: “What sudden rhetoric trembles at the door? I see clouds reflected in the gutter, but they’re still clouds.” And her earlier investigations of lyric form and elusive meaning require deep thought and deliberation: “Human understanding is a savage construction// of dilation and resistance... We live in a sunspot// ‘little o.’” Willis also stands out for the many various ways she uses sources from the visual arts, incorporating Ruskin, Giorgione, J.M.W. Turner, Joseph Cornell, and William Blake. Willis’s challenging, cerebral work rewards the patient reader, and this selection should help her reach a wider audience. (Apr.)

From the Publisher

"Willis offers the penetrating musings and sometimes fragmented syntax of a contemporary Emily Dickinson but can feel like a spirited surrealist...Starting stringently and getting richer with cultural and political references as it proceeds, this Selected offers gems from five collections and culminates in a dozen new or uncollected pieces. Grab it." —Library Journal, starred review

“More people should be reading Elizabeth Willis, one of our most gifted and historically attuned poets.” – Jennifer Chang, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Willis’s poetry offers a site where the lyrical and social collide in productive ways, where epiphany is short-circuited just as it is about to ‘transcend’ experience, where the political runs aground on, against, implacable language, implacable ‘experience.’” – Tyrone Williams, Bird Dog

“An amazing collision of the vulnerable and the mighty, the perishable and the explosive, the mundane and the cosmic.” – Stefania Heim, Boston Review

Praise for The Human Abstract

 
“These poems move with an uncanny precision to sound thought and the body it makes manifest. No one speaks more clearly in such subtle webs of feeling. Nor is there any other who can so bring us home. Elizabeth Willis is a master.” —Robert Creeley
 
The Human Abstract returns the abstract to the essence of language, reviving our ears to the essential music of our humanity. In this music, we begin to construct for ourselves a dwelling made of incidents whose origins are as near as Sappho’s celebrated fragments, Dickinson’s wonderful prisms. In this collection, Elizabeth Willis recovers the originating lyric impulse into a haunting contemporary song. This is poetry of amazing intelligence and grace.” —Ann Lauterbach
 
“Dislocating the self’s topology, Elizabeth Willis’s mysterious poems emerge as shattered musical phrases, brilliantly in and out of key, exactly scored—meaning to sound the alarming tick and wobble of she who is born into the world at this historic moment. Her wary foot enters the room, her ear gathers its signals cunningly, and she’s gone. We follow, compelled by this urgent hermetic reading of human event, fastened to her sorrow and appetite.” —Kathleen Fraser
 
Praise for Turneresque

 
“Indulging in the quintessentially poetic art of associating things that have never been found together before, Willis...here combines the haunting luminosity of English painter J. M. W. Turner with the lucid black-and-white of American film noir, along with the darkly visionary poetry of Rimbaud, Blake and Baudelaire.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Affirmative, even jocularly courageous. It seems—to borrow one of its own phrases—‘to imply or intone the whole possibility of human sun.’ ”—Cole Swenson, Rain Taxi

Library Journal

★ 04/15/2015
The recipient of multiple honors (e.g., the National Poetry Series, a Guggenheim), Willis offers the penetrating musings and sometimes fragmented syntax of a contemporary Emily Dickinson but can feel like a spirited surrealist ("Though my heart were a pear tree/ threaded with fire/ Lion you leapt through me/ like fineness in the boundary gene"). Starting stringently and getting richer with cultural and political references as it proceeds, this Selected offers gems from five collections and culminates in a dozen new or uncollected pieces. Grab it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590178652
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 185 KB

Customer Reviews