by Elizabeth T. Gray Jr


by Elizabeth T. Gray Jr


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A riveting lyrical constellation centered on the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders Fields and tibetan protective magic

In the foreword to her book-length poem, Salient, Elizabeth Gray writes, “This work began by juxtaposing two obsessions of mine that took root in the late 1960s: the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by the British Army in Flanders in late 1917, and the chöd ritual, the core ‘severance’ practice of a lineage founded by Machik Lapdrön, the great twelfth-century female Tibetan Buddhist saint.” Over the course of several decades, Gray tracked the contours and traces of the Ypres Salient, walking the haunted battlefield ground of the contemporary landscape with campaign maps in hand, reading “not only history, poetry, and fiction, but also unit diaries; contemporary reports and individual accounts; survey information and maps of all kinds; treatises on aerial photography and artillery tactics; and manuals on field engineering and tactical planning.” Out of this material, through a process of collage, convergence, and ritual chöd visualization, Gray has composed a spare, fascinating lyrical engagement with The Missing, in shell hole and curved trench, by way of amulets and obstacles. What is salient rises from the secret signs in song, like a blessing, protected from harm.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811229241
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/26/2020
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. is the author of the poetry collections Salient and Series | India, and the translator of Wine and Prayer: Eighty Ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz and Iran: Poems of Dissent.

Read an Excerpt

Our bodies grew younger, pliant, light,

like the ten winds or cotton wool,


changeless and radiantly luminous.

“We will be separated for just a moment.”


-From Our Bodies

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Map: The Ypres Salient, July-November 1917 4

War Magic 7

Taking Refuge 9

Looking for the War 11

In Some Ways the Situation Is Analogous to That Facing Second Army in 1915 12

Recalling the Bla 14

The Missing 15

Indirect Fire: Shooting from the Map (from Appendix B) 17

General Description of the Line 19

Bear in Mind 20

How a Mark VII Trench Mortar Fuse Is Like Love 21

The Error of the Day or Moment 22

Summary of Intelligence 23

Additional Information 24

The Missing 25

But You Knew This 26

What She Told Me 27

Notes on the Interpretation of Aeroplane Photographs 29

Construction of Trench Systems: Explanation of Diagram #7 30

Amulet Against Madness 32

Amulet Against Ground Deities 33

Chilled Feet 34

Actual Things with Characteristics 35

The Obstacle 36

Harm 38

Preliminary Orders 39

Amulet Against Discovery 40

Indirect Fire: Shooting from the Map (from Appendix B) 42

Inverted Maps 45

She Explains How to Recognize the Signs of Specific Spirits and Demons When They Arise 46

Stand To 47

Near Wurst Farm 48

Amulet Against Camouflage 49

Signatures 50

Before the Attack on Poelcappelle 51

Obstacles 52

Periscope 53

Amulet Against Dismemberment 54

Sound Ranging 55

The Battle of Poelcappelle 56

Night: Shell-hole 57

Night: Bedroom 58

Notes on the Interpretation of Aeroplane Photographs 59

The Guts of It 60

In the Soft Parts of the Body 61

Recognizing the Signs of Death 62

Field Service Postcard 63

The Relief 64

Map: Final Passchendaele Offensive (detail) 66

Amulet Against Disappearance 67

War Diary, 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division 68

Instructions for Working With the Gyalpo 69

Further Instructions 70

Telephone Reports: 2nd Canadian Divisional Artillery 71

The Missing: The Outer Signs 73

The Missing: The Inner Signs 74

The Missing: The Secret Signs 75

Recognizing the Signs That an Amulet Has Failed 76

Map and Ground 77

Field Survey 78

The Missing 79

Machik Lapdrön Tries to Explain One of the Immeasurables 80

Given a Normally Fine August 81

Camouflage: Trenches 83

Below Bellevue Spur 84

The Second Law of Occlusion 85

Indirect Fire: Shooting from the Map (from Appendix B) 86

That One Time, in December 1914 87

Our Bodies 88

What She Told Me 90

14 November 2017 91

At Goudberg Copse 92

Afterword Nathaniel Tarn 93

Notes on sources 97

Acknowledgments 105

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