PRAISE FOR COMPOSITIONS OF THE DEAD PLAYING FLUTES:
Barbara Ellen Sorensen’s Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes is a book of stunning wakefulness. For it is a wake, but at the same time a celebration, one that focuses on places where the dead were once most alive, places where we are most acutely seen and heard. Here they are deserts, seascapes, landscapes with families. Like the bird wings that so often lift this stunning debut, Sorensen’s flight is full of gravity: “One day you are as light/ as a bird, and then/ you are not.” We stay aloft by living, by insisting on the protean body of the world. Sorensen’s gift is elegy’s clear song, how it may conjure grace from serious illness, car crash, the loss of a child. “The universe bears no flatness. Even its horizon is curved toward repetition. Your death is a horizon. I run to slip over its edge.” Yet we don’t, we stay. By honoring, each to each, our essential complexity, Sorensen reminds us love’s true service is survival.
These poems are attentive, scrupulous, and transforming, as they range from the sensuous to the spiritual . . . Opened in body and spirit, the poet embraces her worlds, and she offers back this poetry, which shimmers in its urgent, delicate balance.
—Veronica Patterson (from the foreword)
Barbara Ellen Sorensen is a lyric poet in the sense that any fabulist might be called lyric—a modern Ovid offering metamorphoses of the triumphs and ashes of human existence in a voice at once deeply personal and entirely of us all. Mystic, mythographer, trickster and elegiast, Sorensen engages subjects that would be ashes in the mouth of a lesser poet—relief work in Haiti, brain surgery, and most devastatingly, the death of a son—with Orphic transformation and the deep truth of stories we tell ourselves by the fire to keep ourselves alive. From the formal mastery of poems like “My Lithium, My Heart” to the exquisite free verse of “Doubting Cremation” (“the beauty of a body/ torn twice from mine, because all mothers/ repeat the births of children who die”), Sorensen gives us, in her Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, the record of her epic travels, her trips to the underworld, and along with that, the words that will save us.
This clear-eyed, brutal, moving, darkly funny book tells a single story in an immediate, accessible voice–29 “tangos” of narrative verse that take us vividly through erotic, painful, and heartbreaking scenes from a long-time marriage that falls apart. Only award-winning poet Anne Carson could create a work that takes on the oldest of lyrical subjects–love–and make it this powerful, this fresh, this devastating.
The afterword consists of an important new essay-poem by Hall as well. It argues against irony from a rural perspective and amounts to Hall’s ars poetica. In an encompassing introduction, rob mclennan explores Hall’s four-plus decades of bricolage.
Helen Hajnoczky's first book of poetry was Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising (Snare, 2010). Her work has appeared in poetry anthologies, magazines, and chapbooks. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.
form a bombsight
think periosteum singing
particle falconry workpiece
two lowcut hills seeking
what stone is
Night & Ox is a long poem working its interruptions to a degree where it's broken by the will to live. A poem that invokes expansive loneliness, where the poet's emotional response is to endure. A crushed line of astral forms and anatomy in perpetual remove; it is a poem that nurtures vulnerability: some soft-footed embryo sounds against language’s viscera. Night & Ox possesses a feral minimalism for those too tired and too frantic with joy to cope with narrative.
‘A fierce, ladderlike cri de cœur – at times a cri de cur – Night & Ox pulses with sawblade nocturnes that gnaw through the very rungs on which they’re wrung. One part Jabberwocky-talkie, one part fatherhood ode, the poem seeks a threshold, where the “mondayescent” gives way to ardour, splendour, even love. Scott is a cosmoglot of the throat’s ravine, and this is his manic, pandemonic article of faith.’ – Andrew Zawacki
Praise for Blert:
‘Scott takes us down to the basement of words, where sound and rhythm rule, and poets learn their craft. Blert is a strange and gorgeous work of linguistic materialism.' – Dennis Lee