By Elizabeth Willis
Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
American poet Elizabeth Willis has written an electrifying physique of labor spanning greater than two decades. With a wild and inquisitive lyricism, Willis—“one of the main awesome poets of her generation” (Susan Howe)—draws us into tricky styles of notion and feeling. The intimate and civic handle of those poems is laced with subterranean affinities between painters, botanists, politicians, witches and agitators. Coursing via this paintings is the readability and resistance of a global that asks the poem to upward push to this, to talk its fury.
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Additional resources for Alive: New and Selected Poems
It was the stench that trapped us where we worked, invaded willing shovels entered living nostrils beneath protective safety masks. m 23 m I wondered how long before earth would calm the clinging color of death. But today I mourn a greater loss: pure scent they fought for dunged by imposters, murdered by power where every hack speech every greed-spliced lie spits in the gaping sockets of men and women whose last sad fumes still gag my memory. 2 Faint olfactory waves at Rome’s arenas where clawed gladiator flesh screams bloodied concession for the ages.
M 37 m Intimately Defeated Meditation on ex vice president Dick Cheney’s heart transplant. He wakes with the new master muscle in place but something is wrong. Years of synchronizing heart and head, the lust for power coursing through both in syncopated symphony, greed on the battlefield keeping perfect time with corporate greed and the baton he wields within his family or on a friendly hunt. He wakes and doesn’t doubt the transplant has been successful. In every way but one. No organ rejection or danger of infection, no fever above his usual two degrees below what other mortals know as normal.
Greek flute condemned to silence. Walls of jungle vine impenetrable as forked tongues, solid as this weight pushing you down and out. Look at your feet. Journey left and right in circles that hold you tight and almost threaten return. m 46 m Keep on walking so those in front won’t feel the wind of distance at their backs and those behind may keep a human in the cross-hairs. Do unto others, as the saying goes. When your toes feel water rising and you begin to hear faint music of sea, you will be invited to lift your arms, reach out and touch this towering canyon pulsing on either side.