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On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths
     

On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths

by Lucia Perillo
 

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Honored as one of the "100 Notable Books of 2012" by The New York Times Book Review

"The poems in On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths are taut, lucid, lyric, filled with complex emotional reflection while avoiding the usual difficulties of highbrow poetry."— New York Times Book Review

"Perillo has long lived with, and written

Overview

Honored as one of the "100 Notable Books of 2012" by The New York Times Book Review

"The poems in On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths are taut, lucid, lyric, filled with complex emotional reflection while avoiding the usual difficulties of highbrow poetry."— New York Times Book Review

"Perillo has long lived with, and written about, her struggle with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Her bracing sixth book of poems, published concurrently with her debut story collection, takes an unflinching, though not unsmiling, look at mortality. Perillo has a penchant for dark humor, for jokes that stick."— Publishers Weekly , starred review

"Perillo's poetic persona is funny, tough, bold, smart, and righteous. A spellbinding storyteller and a poet who makes the demands of the form seem as natural as a handshake, she pulls readers into the beat and whirl of her slyly devastating descriptions."— Booklist

"Whoever told you poetry isn't for everyone hasn't read Lucia Perillo. She writes accessible, often funny poems that border on the profane."— Time Out New York

"Lucia Perillo's much lauded writing has been consistently fine—with its deep, fearless intelligence; its dark and delicious wit; its skillful lyricism; and its refreshingly cool but no less embracing humanity." —Open Books: A Poem Emporium

The poetry of Lucia Perillo is fierce, tragicomic, and contrarian, with subjects ranging from coyotes and Scotch broom to local elections and family history. Formally braided, Perillo gathers strands of the mythic and mundane, of media and daily life, as she faces the treachery of illness and draws readers into poems rich in image and story.

When you spend many hours alone in a room
you have more than the usual chances to disgust yourself—
this is the problem of the body, not that it is mortal
but that it is mortifying. When we were young they taught us
do not touch it, but who can keep from touching it,
from scratching off the juicy scab? Today I bit
a thick hangnail and thought of Schneebaum,
who walked four days into the jungle
and stayed for the kindness of the tribe—
who would have thought that cannibals would be so tender?

Lucia Perillo 's Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and received the Bobbitt award from the Library of Congress. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Elizabeth Lund
Its quirky, engrossing poems read as smoothly as a popular novel. Perillo…writes with an endearing strangeness as she addresses loss, change and mortality…The work is consistently strong and astute, yet humane and tender, as well.
Publishers Weekly
Perillo has long lived with, and written about, her struggle with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Her bracing sixth book of poems, published concurrently with her debut story collection, takes an unflinching, though not unsmiling, look at mortality. Perillo has a penchant for dark humor, for jokes that stick. She muses, in one grimly amusing poem, on “those who have drifted through thus far of their allotted/ fifty or seventy or ninety years on Earth/ with no disasters happening,” using poetry as a way to “meditate against my envy/ aimed at those who drift inside the bubble of no trouble.” But Perillo isn’t petty; for her, despite the joking tone, the stakes are always high. The book is full of practical advice, including instructions on “The freak-out” which “wants wide open space,/ though the rules call for containment—// there are the genuine police to be considered/ which is why I recommend the empty vestibule.” It’s also full of a kind of transcendent resolve only harsh experience can bring: “no matter what has happened since,/... / the sadness of the bound-to-happen/ the ecstasy of the fragile moment,/ I know one night I narrowed my gaze/ and attended to my captaining, while the sea/ gave me more serious work than either love or speech.” (May)
Library Journal
Perillo doesn't like to look backward, or so she said in a recent interview. But most of the poems in her latest book do just that. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for Inseminating the Elephant (2009), which featured poems about her coping with multiple sclerosis, Perillo here muses on everything from her elementary school years to her father's books, "scattered face down like turtles sunning," to a photograph of her grandfather circa 1915 "while his words turn into coal." Fueled by anger, the poems make an effort (sometimes too deliberate) to avoid mawkishness at all costs. The result is steel-wrought poetry whose metaphors are honed with precision, as in the final lines of one of the best: "Maybe you were taking out the garbage, twisting/ your robe into a noose knot, when you stopped/ fighting the urge to howl, and howled—/ and did it bring relief, my friend, however self-deceiving?" VERDICT While not bitter, these dark, hard-edged, sarcastic poems offer anything but emotion recollected in tranquility. They're written from the gut.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., Lutherville, MD

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556594151
Publisher:
Copper Canyon Press
Publication date:
12/17/2013
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
1,374,551
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Lucia Perillo: Lucia Perillo graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1979 with a major in wildlife management, and subsequently worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She completed her MA in English at Syracuse University, and has published five books of poetry. She was a MacArthur Fellow in 2000 and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. She lives in Olympia, Washington.

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