Selected for the National Poetry Series by Martha Collins, Sara Eliza Johnson’s stunning, deeply visceral first collection pulls shards of tenderness from a world on the verge of collapse.
Here violence and terror infuse the body, the landscape, and dreams: a handful of blackberries offered from bloodied arms, bee stings likened to pulses of sunlight, a honeycomb of marrow exposed. “All moments will shine if you cut them open. / Will glisten like entrails in the sun.” With figurative language that makes long, associative leaps, and with metaphors and images that continually resurrect themselves across poems, Bone Map builds and transforms its world through a locomotive echo—a regenerative force—that comes to parallel the psychic quest for redemption that unfolds in its second half. The result is a deeply affecting composition that establishes Sara Eliza Johnson as a vital new voice in American poetry.
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Praise and Prizes
“The territory mapped in this gorgeous book is wracked by violence, war, and loss, with the bones and viscera of the living and dead laying claim to our attention. But it is also a world of dream and vision: ‘All moments will shine if you cut them open,’ the poet says. And though the process is often brutal, as war edges toward apocalypse, then quiets to elegiac ache, a fierce beauty emerges, line by line, image by image, transforming darkness as well as light.”
“Sara Eliza Johnson’s poems, like light, clarify even as they pierce.”
“Sara Eliza Johnson’s spare, versatile diction gives these slender poems the intractable grip of a sudden riptide. Each one vivisects its subject to better appreciate its force of beauty, its startling nature, with novel grace and curiosity.”
“Bone Map makes words said, and heard, for the first time. Who believes that young poets cannot be Masters? Each poem is a new backdrop for matters of interest—mostly of love—new circumstances—sometimes surreal—each page an index of bright beautiful language.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Bone Map charts a dreamscape that mixes elements of folk tale into mysterious itineraries through the commingled fringes of the world of sacramental animals and a frail humankind. Sara Eliza Johnson writes with a delicacy of language and magical thought all her own. She is a builder of miraculous worlds and not their devourer.”