This collection of poems begins rooted in the landscape of the U.S. South as it voices singular lives carved out of immediate and historical trauma. While these poems dwell in the body, often meditating on its frailty and desire, they also question the weight that literary, historical, and religious icons are expected to bear. Within the vast scope of this volume, the poems arc from a pig farmer’s funeral to Georges de la Tour’s paintings and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. With an ear tuned to the lift and lilt of speech, they wring song from sorrow and plant in every dirge a seed of jubilation. Rich in clarity and decisive in her attention to image, Natalie J. Graham writes resonant, lush poetry.
Excerpt from “Ophelia by Water” in Begin with a Failed Body
Even with the buzz and prick of summer,
what thumped in her brain
was not the pulse of a dark thicket,
the frenetic crescendo of cicadas,
but snippets of verse that sounded sacred.
She turned away from noise,
cooling her hem in the current,
washing a hand over her face.
Lit from within,
she was a candle to the cerulean shadows,
perched on the edge
of a black tangle of climbing vines.
She waited, a doll half wooden and half glass.
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