by Lauren Goodwin Slaughter


by Lauren Goodwin Slaughter


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In Spectacle, Lauren Goodwin Slaughter's second full-length collection, the poet deepens her commitment to the enduring and eternal subjects of womanhood, motherhood, and family, and deftly considers how those devotions intersect in ways joyful, mysterious, and cruel within personal and political landscapes. Slaughter’s poems seek out and explore authentic, raw humanity, at times employing the gaze of Dutch photographer and artist, Rineke Dijkstra—several of whose photographic portraits are included in the collection alongside ekphrastic poems—as a lens to view what Dijkstra calls the "uninhibited moment.” When artistic eye meets the fierceness of subject, the result is poetry deeply rooted in its lyricism and empathy, grounded in its depth of emotion, and unflinching in its alertness to the poet's beloveds and world.  

Distributed on behalf of Panhandler Books, an imprint of the Department of English and World Languages at the University of West Florida.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780991640461
Publisher: Panhandler Books
Publication date: 05/03/2022
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter is a NEA Fellow in Poetry, the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and author of the poetry collection, a lesson in smallness. Her poems, essays, and short stories appear in ImageHarvard ReviewTupelo QuarterlyPleiadesKenyon Review Online, and 32 Poems, among other places. She is an associate professor of English at The University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is also Editor-in-Chief of NELLE, a literary journal that publishes writing by women. 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ii


Alice the Corpse Flower Blooms at the Chicago Botanic Garden 5


Julie, Den Haag, February 29, 1994 Photograph by Rineke Dijkstra 11

Pulse 14

Kitchen, 5 a.m. 18

Cookery 19

Birthday Parties 20

The Fourth Bomb Threat; Birmingham JCC 22

The Chemistry of Color 25

Vila Franca de Xira, May 8, 1994 Photograph by Rineke Dijkstra 27

Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, June 19, 1991 Photograph by Rineke Dijkstra 30


In Praise of Dark Matter 35

Elegy for Michael Friedman 37

Syringe Training, Home Visit 41

Tornado Season 42

Boner 43

Ghost Forests 45

Ode to the Funeral Program for My Friend Mark's Mom 47

Mom Turns 79 during the Global Pandemic 50

Shut Up Amy Cooper 52

Lockdown, 2020 54

The Days and Weeks Ahead 55


Lina and Bruun, Amsterdam, Dec. 7, 2016 Photograph Rineke Dijkstra 61

With My Sister in the Bathroom 62

Euphemisms 63

In-Flight: Philadelphia to Birmingham 65

The Paramedics 67

Sometimes You Just Have to Grow Up 69

Waiting for Another Call from My Sister in the Middle of the Night 71

Trich: What My Sister's Treatment May Involve 72

On Seeing the Girl at the Gym with Bald Patches 74

I Hit My Sister with the Speak-N-Spell 76

Sister Dance Off 78


Vondelpark, Amsterdam, June 19, 2005 Photograph by Rineke Dijkstra 81

"Asteroid Heading to Earth: Will Your Cell Phones Go Out?" 82

The Neutral Ones 84

Ode to My Daughter's Burden 86

Ode to the Frog in Her Throat 87

Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26, 1992 Photograph by Rineke Dijkstra 88

Before The Birth of Venus 90

About the Author 93

About Rineke Dijkstra 95

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“As Eudora Welty says, you will read Spectacle quickly at first with “a sweet devouring” but then you will want to read it again. The poems will comfort but also push you, repeatedly, and in a good way, out of your comfort zones.” – Virginia Bell, writing in RHINO

“I love the poems in Spectacle by Lauren Slaughter. For the work they do and the speed they move and the light they shine. I love the world these poems make and so I love this awful world a little better, and I think that’s the sort of radical empathy that poems create: they enliven, they sing, they see. Slaughter writes at one point of “this elegant dark theory, / the starry hunger” and I can’t think of a better, truer invocation of love and life and the spells that hold us between them. Go read this book now.”—Paul Guest, author of Because Everything Is Terrible  

“Spectacle starts with the eye—the dead moth’s eyespot, the photographer’s eye behind the lens, the anxious eye of the mother watching through a door, who tries, impossibly, to translate the “ghost forest” of grief through which her children must move. But what’s so powerful about Lauren Slaughter’s poems is how the lens widens: “the throb of knowing, always, / what comes next—” poetry’s urgent power to improve our collective vision, to help us see the larger, fraught family of our humanity and its shared losses. Knowing deeply the invisibility that comes with motherhood, womanhood, and otherhood of many kinds, Slaughter refuses to let the edges of her poems’ sight blur, and, in the space beyond ekphrasis, where real life is captured, she “reach[es] / for some / right word.” I, as her ardent reader, am better for it.”—Jenny Molberg, author of Refusal  

“Threaded throughout this stunning collection are ekphrastic poems responding to Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs. And like Dijkstra, Lauren Slaughter is concerned with what appearances try to conceal—the complicated emotions that lurk around everyday activities from celebrating an aging parent’s birthday to navigating a store’s clothing rack. Moving seamlessly between moments of quiet joy and sudden heartache, these finely chiseled poems rise from the page to provide comfort with their vulnerability, lyrical surprise, and wisdom. If there was ever a book that spoke to this era, it is this one.”—Charlotte Pence, author of Code

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