In the Permanent Collection

In the Permanent Collection

by Stefanie Wortman


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Winner of the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, 2013.

Trying to make sense of a disordered world, Stefanie Wortman’s debut collection examines works of art as varied as casts of antique sculpture, 19th-century novels, and even scenes from reality television to investigate the versions of order that they offer. These deft poems yield moments of surprising levity even as they mount a sharp critique of human folly.

“These poems seem haunted by a mostly nameless melancholia. In The Permanent Collection, however, turns its grim geography of prisons, mortuaries, and tawdry suburbs into something close to classical elegy. ‘In sunken rooms,’ Wortman writes, ‘on scratchy rugs, maybe we’ve never known happiness.’ It’s that ‘maybe’—the smart hedge—that renders her poems complex, often beguiling, but never without a gesture of redemption. This should be part of any serious poet’s permanent collection.”—Chad Davidson, author, The Last Predicta and judge

From “Long Occupation”

I was naïve of foreign affairs in the Four
Seasons bar when a Swiss knife maker
assured me of the coming war. . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574415544
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Publication date: 04/04/2014
Series: Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry , #21
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

STEFANIE WORTMAN was born in Kansas City. She earned an master’s of arts degree from Boston University and a doctorate from the University of Missouri. Her poems and essays have appeared in the Yale Review, Antioch Review, Boston Review, Southwest Review, and other publications. She currently lives in Rhode Island.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix


Reform, Missouri 3

Blind King 4

New Orleans 6

Low Definition 7

Everyone Was Dead and I Went On, Drunk 8

The General 9

Weed Guide 10

Careless Simile 11

Vaudeville 12

Strip Mall 13

Long Occupation 14


Twelve Bar Blues 17

Recovery Coffee 18

Sibling Gothic 20

The Transparent Fabulist 21

There's Something Quieter than Sleep 22

Family Plot 23

Permanent Collection 24

Tell Me about the Fates 26

You're in the Picture 27

Mortuary Art 28


To My Heart 31

The Zombie 33

Cavebunny 34

Tennessee Williams 35

Surrender 36

To a Friend, on Living Alone 37

Spring 38

A Story about Show Business 39

Star Chart 40

Assez Vu 41

Sleeping Song 42


Lucky 45

Dance of Death 46

Likeness 48

Compact Mirror 49

Sight Gags 51

Reasons for Living Happily 53

Medallion 54

The Gallow Ball (1950) 55

Spiritual Exercises 56

Notes 57

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