Exit, Civilian

Poems by Idra Novey
Selected by Patricia Smith


"[T]he book reveals superb acts of attention, by a writer whose reliable moral sense matches her first-rate ear."
Publishers Weekly

"The prisons, courthouses, and hideaways featured in Novey's National Poetry Series winner are very real, but we don't encounter so much bars, barbs, and barbed wire as metaphysical shrinkage and change. . . . Startling."
Library Journal

More / Hide


In her second collection, Idra Novey steps in and out of jails, courthouses, and caves to explore what confinement means in the twenty-first century. From the beeping doors of a prison in New York to cellos playing in a former jail in Chile, she looks at prisons that have opened, closed, and transformed to examine how the stigma of incarceration has altered American families, including her own. Novey writes of the expanding prison complex that was once a field and imagines what's next for the civilians who enter and exit it each day.

On Bafflement

We drew a prison in the sand and it wouldn’t go away.

Not even beneath the foam of the biggest waves.

The torn leg of a starfish clung to the door.

A piece of seaweed clung to the bars over the windows.

The tide came in higher and we thought, So much for the prison.

Somebody asked why did we draw that thing,

And were we growing old watching it this way.

We felt compelled to make love in the sand a few feet off.

Then we drew another one, just to see if we’d make love again.
The National Poetry Series

Page count: 88 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $17.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

Idra Novey is the author of The Next Country and has received awards from the Poetry Society of America, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the PEN Translation Fund. Her translations include Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. (New Directions, 2012). She has taught in the Bard College Prison Initiative and in Columbia University’s School of the Arts.