The Tatters

The Tatters

by Brenda Coultas
     
 

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In this nuanced and moving new collection of poems, Brenda Coultas weaves a meditation on contemporary life and our place in it. Coultas, who is known for her investigative documentary approach, turns her attention to landfills and the odd histories embedded in the materials found there. The poems make their home among urban and rural detritus, waste, trinkets, and

Overview

In this nuanced and moving new collection of poems, Brenda Coultas weaves a meditation on contemporary life and our place in it. Coultas, who is known for her investigative documentary approach, turns her attention to landfills and the odd histories embedded in the materials found there. The poems make their home among urban and rural detritus, waste, trinkets, and found objects. The title poem, for example, takes its cue from the random, often perfect, pigeon feathers found on city streets. In a seamless weave of poetic sentences, The Tatters explores how our human processes of examination are often bound up with destruction. These poems enable us to be present with the sorrow and horror of our destructive nature, and to honor the natural world while acknowledging that this world no longer exists in any pure form, calling to us instead from cracks in the sidewalk, trash heaps, and old objects. Check for the online reader’s companion at tatters.site.wesleyan.edu.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Her broaching of modern topics—fracking, toy robots, texting photographs of a meal—gives a 21st-century feel to the collection, as does the use of hybrid forms…(T)he poet’s voice is unique and authentic…”
—Doris Lynch, Library Journal

“These poems matter, not only because they are matter but because they are responsible.”
—Timothy Liu, Coldfront

“Brenda Coultas brings an informed sense of wonder to gobs of information passed over by the casual observer. Gathering facts and events she's witnessed or read about, relating tales overlooked or discarded amongst the mass of cultural information swirling in today's growing digital overload. Whether it's her neighborhood(s) or historical evidence she's sifting through, Coultas looks with a well-grounded eye at the street level, keeping things locally informed. Her poems (often in prose) represent the dissemination of this stored material.”
—James Patrick Dunagan, Bookslut

“Dedicated to poet, journalist, and activist Brad Will, a friend killed while filming a street battle in Mexico in 2006, Brenda Coultas’s The Tatters summons powers too seldom called upon these days. In the emotionally bereft wasteland of too much of the present US literary scene—with its overproduction, professionalism, back-scratching, and socially adept forms of networking and uncritical reception—the poetry of Coultas stands out like a lighthouse, welcoming all of us, lost at sea, to a world disappearing before our very eyes but still visible in her work.”
—Ammiel Alcalay, BOMB Magazine

“Coultas wants to push back against the shuttering of the natural world and the contemporaneous homogenization and toothlessness of how we communicate with one another. She wants to meet head-on the unwelcome but essential information that much of what we are now made of is runoff…These poems, cataloguing and owning and turning from and grappling with our vast trash, are trouble in the most useful sense of the word.”—Natalie Shapero, Kenyon Review

“Coultas is a writer I would like to spend more time with. She reminds me that when poetry works, it can do so much, in such a small space.”—Giles Goodland, Poetry Salzburg Review

Library Journal
03/01/2014
Coultas's fourth collection (after Marvelous Bones of Time) includes six long poems that examine the mess we have made of nature (e.g., "A Gaze" confronts our uses and misuses of water) and the sorrow we live with for those who have died. Her broaching of modern topics—fracking, toy robots, texting photographs of a meal—gives a 21st-century feel to the collection, as does the use of hybrid forms; these pieces incorporate both prose and poetry. Coultas employs images sparingly, though when she does use them, they strike home ("the flesh fabric that covers the hand bones"), and she sometimes includes aphoristic sayings as well ("A fossil is a fiction written by time"). She can also write sparely and from the heart ("Paper at my feet/ Bodies/ Stillborns/ What little I know of other lives"). Unfortunately, some lines are pedantic ("The last glass of water sits before you, how fast or slow will you/ drink it?"), and many passages are utilitarian and hard to follow ("The object to be reassembled with the saved elements/ Under the dust the front door waits to be opened again"). VERDICT Though the poet's voice is unique and authentic, her language is too often bland and sometimes ungrammatical. Few poems sing. This is only for dedicated readers. [See "What's Coming for National Poetry Month in April?" Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819574190
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
03/11/2014
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Pages:
68
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

Anselm Berrigan
“The Tatters is a real achievement—a recognizable and complex texture of feeling accrues through an organization of ephemera and idiosyncratic self-assessments bound up completely with lived experience in a shared and difficult if constantly surprising world.”
Lewis Warsh
“Unlike most writers who are working in hybrid forms, Coultas creates a seamless enmeshment between poetry and prose, and this consistency of voice and tone is one of her great strengths. It’s her signature, really, a kind of magical occurrence where two things merge to become a third thing—something completely different.”
Eleni Sikelianos
“In this beautiful new book, Coultas gathers the debris of our living, sifting through the midden piles to uncover ‘the heat of the keystrokes,’ the made world at the center of the hornets' nest or the human anatomy book. She takes apart the animal-made machines to show us not only the tatters at the heart of living, but also the ‘full glory’ of our assemblages (objects and bodies). In this ethical testimony, occurring at the boundary between the remains and the living, she shows us the only thing that will keep us going: how to share this world.”
Gail Scott
“Brenda Coultas’s supreme deftness at turning detritus into living aching contemporaneity takes on an additional register, here, every beautifully grounded line sounding, simultaneously, a kind of music of the spheres. From the firey innards of a blue stone (that is also the blue gaze of a doll), to the trailer that marks a burnt farmhouse, to the flaming eye of meth, to night’s turning blue planets, Brenda Coultas delivers from deep within her midden of detritus, a ‘city within the fire.’ Which is our city, our burnished insides, our tattered time + its dead objects tagged with the history of human hubris. Not a list but a story, kaleidoscopic embers, spinning into a world of incredible, deeply menaced, wonder.”

Meet the Author

BRENDA COULTAS is author of three books of poems: The Marvelous Bones of Time, A Handmade Museum, and Early Films. She teaches at Touro College and has served as faculty in Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, and she lives in New York City.

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