The VQR Poetry Series, published in conjunction with the University of Georgia Press, strives to publish some of the freshest, most accomplished poetry being written today. The series gathers a group of diverse poets committed to using intensely focused language to affect the way that readers see the world. A poem, at its heart, is a statement of refusal to accept common knowledge and the status quo. By studying the world for themselves, these poets illuminate what we, as a culture, may learn from close inspection.
Field Folly Snow
The poems in this collection are meditations on the natural world, written from the perspective of what Li-Young Lee has aptly termed "a passionate interiority." The history and geography of the American West inspire many of the poems’ investigations of the environment and the role of the individual in relation to that environment. In Cecily Parks’s landscape made strange by human consciousness, being lost is a requirement, though not a guarantee, of being found.
Cecily Parks’s chapbook, Cold Work, won the 2005 Poetry Society of America New York Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including Best New Poets 2007 and Tin House, and she has an essay in A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise: Twenty Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World. She is a PhD candidate in English at CUNY Graduate Center.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3117-1
The History of Anonymity
This debut collection of vivid, lyrical poems explores the emotional landscape of childhood without confession and without straightforward narrative. Chang sweeps together myth and fairy tale, skirting the edges of events to focus on the psychological tenor of experience: the underpinnings of identity and the role of nature in both constructing and erasing a self. From the edge of the ocean, where things constantly shift and dissolve, through "the forest’s thick, / where the trees meet the dark," to an imaginary cliffside town of fog, this book makes a journey both natural and psychological, using experiments in language and form to capture the search for personhood and place.
Jennifer Chang’s poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, New England Review, New Republic, Boston Review, and other publications. She co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a nonprofit organization that promotes Asian American poetry.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3116-3
This follow-up to Patrick Phillips’s award-winning debut navigates the course of the male experience, and particularly young fatherhood. Like Virgil’s Aeneas, the book’s central figure is in the middle time of life, a grown man with an aging father on his shoulders and a young son at his hand. Phillips’s plainspoken and moving lyrics add an important voice to the poetry of home as they struggle to reconcile fatherhood and boyhood, present and past, and the ache of loving what must be lost.
Patrick Phillips’s first book, Chattahoochee, was selected by Alice Quinn, Robert Wrigley, and Robert Pinsky for the 2005 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and also received a "Discovery"/The Nation Prize from the Unterberg Poetry Center. He has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Copenhagen, and his translations of the Danish poet Paul la Cour received the Sjoberg Translation Prize of the American-Scandinavian Foundation. He is currently an assistant professor of English at Drew University.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3119-8
Playful and rich, formally inventive, funny and wry, McFadden’s poems examine American identity through the latent possibilities of language. Transforming empty spans of interstate and inconspicuous small towns into landscapes fertile with wordplay and rampant with irony, McFadden makes letters themselves rearrange and conspire against commonplaces.
Kevin McFadden has published in a wide array of journals, including Denver Quarterly, Fence, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Review. He is the associate program director for the Virginia Festival of the Book.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3118-X
Victoria Chang’s collection takes its title from what many call "the worst weed in the world," a plant so rapidly and uncontrollably invasive that it is illegal to sell or possess in the United States. Chang explores this image of vitality and evil in three thematically grouped sections focusing on corporate greed, infidelity and desire, and historical atrocities, including the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in China and the massacre of Chinese people in Nanking by Japanese troops in World War II.
This edgy, fierce subject matter becomes engaging and fresh as Chang applies her powers of imagination to the extraordinary lives of Madame Mao, investment banker Frank P. Quattrone, and others living at extraordinary historical moments. In "Seven Stages of Genocide," for example, the poem’s speaker is herded into a death camp along with a neighbor that he strongly dislikes: "The barbed wire around us forces me / to catch his breath that smells like goose." Chang focuses her attention to occurrences in the world that many poets find too violent or disturbing to write about, thereby making her own distinctive aesthetic from that which is, like Salvinia molesta, both creepy and beautiful.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3176-7
Set against the bleak backdrop of the Yukon and the historical moment of the 1897 Klondike gold rush, this chronologically arranged series of sonnets is grounded in the lived experience of Finnish immigrants Anna and Abe Malm. Anna hauls her Anthony Wayne Washer into the wilderness and sets up a laundry business while Abe seeks his fortune. Anna and Abe share a unique history, revealed in the book’s epigraph: Anna, nineteen years her husband's senior, had first raised him and then married him.
Genoways’s graceful formalism makes percussive music of a story marked by isolation and brutal difficulty. He manages a deft and plain-speaking rhyme that is in keeping with the tough lives his poems explore. The poems, which shift in frame from Anna’s letters or Abe’s diary to third-person verse that captures the characters’ inner thoughts, bring the vitality of luminous detail and psychological depth to the arc of history.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3206-2
The poems in this debut collection revolve around physical work, the Appalachian landscape, and family relationships. Casteen, for ten years a designer and builder of custom furniture, ranges from the farm to the shop floor, from the rivers of the Piedmont to the wooded shoulders of the Blue Ridge, and from the hyperattentiveness of childhood through the anxieties and joys of fatherhood.
John Casteen teaches at Sweet Briar College. He lives in Earlysville, Virginia. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his poems have appeared in Ploughshares, the Georgia Review, the Iowa Review, Shenandoah, and other journals. He has contributed prose to Slate, VQR, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3328-X
Susan B. A. Somers-Willett
At the crossroads of science, mathematics, and art lives Quiver, a stunning collection of poems that seeks to reconcile the empirical truths of science with the emotional truths of human experience. Through an ambitious set of poetic series and sequences, Somers-Willett reinvents the love poem, rendering an exquisite world where the graph of a mathematical equation can become the image of “love’s witness / running with its arms open all the way home.” With a deft, meditative sense of music, Quiver reveals a relationship between science and human sentiment that is as surprising as it is profound.
Susan B. A. Somers-Willett is the author of a book of poetry, Roam, and a book of criticism, The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America. She lives in Austin, Texas.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 0-8203-3327-1
The Mansion of Happiness
Robin Ekiss’s meditations on memory and mortality are a canary in the coal mine of imagination. With disembodied dolls, dank Parisian catacombs, the gilded interior of a Fabergé egg, and the unfathomable edge of Niagara Falls as the dominion of these poems, reading Ekiss’s work is like peering into the perfectly still world of a diorama or daguerreotype: an experience both uncanny and uncompromising.
Robin Ekiss has received a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award for Emerging Women Writers. Her poems have appeared widely, in the Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, and elsewhere. She lives in San Francisco, California.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8203-3408-0
Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World
In this book-length series, poems with titles such as “Illustrating the theory of interference” and “Illustrating the construction of railroads” are paired with nineteenth-century engravings depicting phenomena from geology to astronomy to mechanics. Yet the poems relate to the images in an oblique rather than a direct way. Poteat uses this framework to construct a mysterious and engaging book that inhabits many worlds at once, bridging the real and the imagined, the traditional and the experimental, the surreal and the ordinary.
As each diagram and scene gives rise to a poem that intertwines the life of German artist and printer J. G. Heck—imagined, as little is recorded—with Poteat’s own, the book reveals a preoccupation with landscape that encompasses both the precision of Heck’s carefully labeled sine waves and brass devices as well as the eeriness of his depictions of skeletal hands or dogs tearing apart a wounded boar. Poteat’s intense interest in the natural world is set against a sense of a world behind the world, where each living thing is properly named and the Spirit glows purposefully above the forest, ready to heal if asked in the correct manner.
Joshua Poteat’s first book, Ornithologies, won the 2004 Anhinga Poetry Prize, and his chapbook, Meditations, won the Poetry Society of America’s 2004 National Chapbook Award. He has received awards from American Literary Review, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and the Arts, Nebraska Review, and River City.
$16.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8203-3414-1