By Elizabeth Willis
Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
American poet Elizabeth Willis has written an electrifying physique of labor spanning greater than two decades. With a wild and inquisitive lyricism, Willis—“one of the main extraordinary poets of her generation” (Susan Howe)—draws us into complex styles of inspiration and feeling. The intimate and civic tackle of those poems is laced with subterranean affinities between painters, botanists, politicians, witches and agitators. Coursing via this paintings is the readability and resistance of an international that asks the poem to upward push to this, to talk its fury.
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Extra info for Alive: New and Selected Poems
The sea is quiet. The men are drunk with possession, The turpentine of fresh wood. 28 Two Russian Goat Songs 1. INTOXICATION for Andrei Amalrik A dark drink of mud and crushed leaves In water holes after the squall, the year's end Comes suddenly, small rain from the sky, Immense rain from the trees. Open on all sides to the light now, There are no more secrets. Nothing is happening now but What you see. No divination in these pools. Yeasted with earth, black decay Works at the parings of a rich season.
Print blackens it. 11 Something in the time's air makes me neglect The small garden of my own mortality, Leads me to play the ecclesiast. " Lethe, who will carry my shade In its frail boat over to the place of shades, Is it that concealment, which waits for me, Does not wait for what my eye lights on? I want to walk, merely, through sun and shadow With my useless freedom—useless unless Or until they try to take it away. 33 Ill This life, a small garden, yet more spacious Than lasting: prehistory under my feet And the advance of air over all that moves Through it.
What is left here The fish crows inherit. In the emptied light I study the structure of a seashell, whorled Out of its lost beginning, and the seed Your talisman, final reduction of the flower, Round, hard, and purposely flawed. 25 Prehistory ι. Baked like a shepherd's pie, full of flowers The watery green meadow against the black green Of the pine woods, the ocherous shade. And two horses grazing— Wild mustard, marsh grass, fallen apples, Their taut bellies all breath, emptiness— Above them a flight Of fish crows, embers of the house That burned last winter against the sky, And I can no longer Find a place for my memory Of the woman who lived there alone, reduced To ashes in the cellar-oven.
Alive: New and Selected Poems by Elizabeth Willis