Soft Targets

Soft Targets

by Deborah Landau


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Starred Review in Publishers Weekly: "Through the cadence of these poems, which sometimes resemble lullabies in their dreaminess and gorgeous lyricism, Landau captures the ways humans persist, despite our collective anxiety, in our longing for 'something tender, something that might bloom.'”

Deborah Landau’s fourth book of poetry, Soft Targets, draws a bullseye on humanity’s vulnerable flesh and corrupted world. In this ambitious lyric sequence, the speaker’s fear of annihilation expands beyond the self to an imperiled planet on which all inhabitants are “soft targets.” Her melancholic examinations recall life’s uncanny ability to transform ordinary places—subways, cafes, street corners—into sites of intense significance that weigh heavily on the modern mind.

“O you who want to slaughter us, we’ll be dead soon/enough what’s the rush,” Landau writes, contemplating a world beset by political tumult, random violence, terror attacks, and climate change. Still there are the ordinary and abundant pleasures of day-to-day living, though the tender exchanges of friendship and love play out against a backdrop of 21st century threats with historical echoes, as neo-Nazis marching in the United States recall her grandmother’s flight from Nazi Germany.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595660
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 626,212
Product dimensions: 0.70(w) x 2.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Deborah Landau is the author of three collections of poetry: The Uses of the Body and The Last Usable Hour, both Lannan Literary Selections from Copper Canyon Press, and Orchidelirium, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. In 2016 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Uses of the Body was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and included on “Best of 2015″ lists by The New Yorker, Vogue, BuzzFeed, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. Landau was educated at Stanford University, Columbia University, and Brown University, where she was a Javits Fellow and received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature. She teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University, and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Read an Excerpt

O you who want to slaughter us, we’ll be dead soon enough what’s the rush. This our only world.
As you can see it has a problem, as you can see the citizens are hanging heavy, the citizens’ minds are out

Eros, eros, in Paris we stayed all night in a seraphic cocktail haze despite the blacked out theater, the shuttered panes tonight we’re the most tender of soft targets,
reclining by the river pulpy with alcohol and all a-sloth

Monsieur can we get a few more? There are unmistakable signs of trouble, but we have days and days still let’s be giddy, maybe, time lights a little fire we are animal hungry down to our delicate bones

O beautiful habits of living,
let me dwell on you awhile

In the cut of Mercy she’s in my arms

In the cut of Cruelty she’s done,

a blood slump on the subway floor.

The double cut.

Can we live this way?

I think someone has done grave injury.

I think person or persons.

I think we’re losing by default.

Slaughter happened around the planet.

We stayed in the thicket whipping up love.

This is my plangent note to the ambassadors of love.

(All dreaming now is retroactive.)

The radioactive someday is here.

Our kings are cranks, crooks, incongruous.

They are improper, ill equipped.

How is it we pushed the handle down and they popped out?


And now they sit at the head of our table.

Can we be excused?

Scurrilous scumbags, x-rays of greed, they move themselves

up the flagpole, razing the trees.

Table of Contents

When it comes to this fleshed neck 3

There were real officers in the streets 7

Those nazis, they knew what to do with a soft 21

America wants it soft 31

Into the sheets we slipped, a crisis 41

The silence will be sudden then last 53

The snow goes to the gallows of a warm grass and what survives 59

Don't blame the wisteria 67

Notes 71

About the Author 73

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