After Urgency

After Urgency

by Rusty Morrison
     
 

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Poetry. Winner of the Dorset Prize, selected by Jane Hirshfield. The aftermath of death leaves many of us dumbstruck—turned inward and inarticulate. Having lost both parents, poet Rusty Morrison attempts to find in that shocked silence a language scored by the intimacy of that aloneness with death. Each poem-series in this book of multi-part sequences… See more details below

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Poetry. Winner of the Dorset Prize, selected by Jane Hirshfield. The aftermath of death leaves many of us dumbstruck—turned inward and inarticulate. Having lost both parents, poet Rusty Morrison attempts to find in that shocked silence a language scored by the intimacy of that aloneness with death. Each poem-series in this book of multi-part sequences evolves a new form, stretching every sentence past expectation so as to disrupt the truisms of grief and find affinities in the shifting flux that death discloses. Readers are offered what the poet experienced in the writing process, not relief but a heightened intensity. Beyond elegy, Morrison's new work embodies the volatility of death in life, which mourning allows us to experience.

"The question underlying AFTER URGENCY is how to go on—a question that presses even when we can do nothing else—and each poem in this collection posits a hard-wrestled, multiplying answer of gorgeous continuance. Rusty Morrison instantiates idea and feeling in ways unlike any other poet now writing. The intelligence and aliveness here are omnidirectional. Inhabiting extremity with speech's own vision and musics, Morrison's image-assertions are uncanny in their inter-mixing of inner and outer, of precision and threshold-awareness. This is a hallmark book of grief and life."—Jane Hirshfield

"What contract does lyric language make with the world? From out of this series of elegies for her parents, Rusty Morrison derives the contract's first tenet: 'Essential in the verbal performance of any statement / is its mortality.' From the poet's poignant reckoning with her own concomitant mortality a Keatsian full-throatedness emerges, but what makes Morrison a post-modern is the way she pairs lyric's mimesis of interiority with philosophy's relentless self-scrutiny, 'demand[ing] of composition that its contrivance come apart.' The resulting poems revise the basic terms of mourning and the generic tropes of elegy. 'Not "death" as the word it was,' she writes, 'but an opening where the whole history of ideas might pass through, undetected.' This openness to ideas underwrites Morrison's refusal to be satisfied with metaphor, simile, and personification, fundamental tools of the Romantic lyric. 'Is the visible all reproduction?' she asks, and, in the wake of this question, cites figuration's failure to render visible anything more than the poet's own fancy: 'Visiting again the hawthorn, which I will not / embed with the more vivid, the charmed life,' she writes ruefully, 'this will be my model for every pact / I make with emptiness.' 'Released from the guilt of order and arrangement,' AFTER URGENCY transforms the private ritual of mourning into its own form of ethics, a practice as old as Antigone, and as tragic."—Brian Teare

"AFTER URGENCY is a wonder of nuanced meditations. It is tempting just to fill up the rest of this paragraph with a few of Morrison's many—very many—exquisite observations of sights and emotions: 'On the back of late day, a clabbered shine'; 'A sky low enough for an ant to walk across'; 'I stop several times—a form of branching / Which is also a form of being severed.' But space should be spared to stress the astonishing originality of the book as an elegy ('I say "Father," the view roughens in reply. / I say "Mother," and the sandy shoal underfoot tosses and flows, school of startled minnows'). Nearly numb as they descend one by one down the ladder of the page into an abyss of silence, the lines are nonetheless continuously arresting in their delicate analyses of grief, its inflections and inexhaustible dimensions, its scald and duration, the way it triggers and owns perceptions: 'Heard the earth inventing gravel': 'crickets / scratch against sunset's bronze.' If there is a phenomenology of grief, Morrison is its furthest explorer—even, its master."—Cal Bedient

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This third—and best—volume from California resident Morrison (Whethering) is also by far her saddest, reacting to the deaths of her father and mother. Morrison’s quiet, melodious pages, in verse and in one-sentence paragraphs, with nested, repeating titles for sections (“An intersection of leaves and likeness” is one), shift back and forth between thoughts about death and grief, on the one hand, and efforts to live in the present, on the other, as the poet tries to stay aware of each perceptual detail. One of several poems called “Aftermath” considers “A pattern on the wallpaper in my mother’s house.// Already diffident with my distance from her death.” More often Morrison tries to illuminate what she has found outdoors: “Tree-line, water’s edge, places that borders will gather against./ What a body might verge upon, it can neither tame nor rest.” Hoping to find a new center, a less melancholy way to see the world, Morrison often reveals instead “the anxiousness in my fixing on thing after thing”: her methods and goals can bring to mind at once the European experimental literature of grief (Jacques Roubaud, for example) and the restless language of a West Coast Jorie Graham. Often she ends up dejected, and the poems portray dejection well; sometimes, however, her alliterative flourishes à la Hopkins, her quick cuts between the outdoors and the inner life, her ventures into phenomenology, bring a consolation we might not expect. (Apr.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932195415
Publisher:
Tupelo Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/30/2012
Pages:
88
Sales rank:
1,061,983
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

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