The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans

Poems by Mary Jo Bang


"In The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans, the O's of fruit, time, and heavenly bodies cohere in sight and in light, and the heartbreaking yearning, 'the impulse to speak,' is over and over again the Don Quixote of gestures, keeping relationships at once glued and unstuck. The book culminates in a rhapsodic braiding of childhood images of a downscrabble upbringing, and a moving evocation of the ambivalence between the frivolity of speech and its absolute necessity. A deeply resonant book."
—Susan Wheeler

"Mary Jo Bang's poetry is vivacious and at the same time mysterious. Its surface glitters with the sparkle that the brightest American writing has always given off, and in the depths it reveals a mixture of smoky, quirky complexities, a blend that is hers alone. Characters are driven to distress or exuberance by the fate she has prepared for them—their stories bloom on the page, ripen strangely, and quickly disappear. I love it."
—John Tranter, editor of Jacket Magazine

This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Mary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately and gracefully with the tangible world.

Bang's savvy alliterative insistence sweeps the reader along, as her poems collectively offer a world delicately structured from memorable fragments of experience, emotion, things, and places--inside and outside the human psyche.

Page count: 80 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $19.95

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Mary Jo Bang is also the author of Apology for Want, Louise in Love, Elegy, and The Bride of E. Elegy was awarded the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award and was listed as a 2008 Notable Book by the New York Times. She has received a Discovery/The Nation Award, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.