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Publish Date: February 2012
A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World
BY Adam Clay
The distilled, haunting, and subtly complex poems in Adam Clay’s A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World often arrive at that moment when solitude slips into separation, when a person suddenly realizes he can barely see the place he set out from however long ago. He now sees he must find his connection back to the present, socially entangled world in which he lives. For Clay, reverie can be a siren’s song, luring him to that space in which prisoners will begin “to interrogate themselves.”
For Clay, reverie can be a siren’s song, luring him to that space in which prisoners will begin to interrogate themselves.
Clay pays attention to the poet’s return to the world of his daily life, tracking the subtly shifting tenors of thought that occur as the landscape around him changes. Clay is fully aware of the difficulties of Thoreau’s “border life,” and his poems live somewhere between those of James Wright and John Ashbery: they seek wholeness, all the while acknowledging that “a fragment is as complete as thought can be.” In the end, what we encounter most in these poems is a generous gentleness—an attention to the world so careful it’s as if the mind is “washing each grain of sand.”
“One of the best young American poets writing today, Adam Clay engages fully with the natural world: plumbing the rivers and climbing the trees of our daily life in his superb lyrical poems. He gracefully dredges up the mysteries embedded in modern life—paper dolls clipped from the morning news, the ringing ears of lightning strike victims—and then brings ‘the patient sadness that will outwait the memory of a spark’ to life in precise swirls of language. Each poem shimmers with physical and metaphysical insight, and Clay’s endless storms and seasons resonate with wisdom and music. A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World is a brilliant collection of poems.”—Alex Lemon
“Adam Clay locates the poetic realm at the very limit of what is known, a hotel teetering on the flat world’s precipice, where every visitor is temporary. Not only does one hear Dickinson whisper, ‘My Business is Circumference,’ Clay arrives also with a Whitmanesque capacity for affirmation, ‘The lyrical quality of a weed.’ In a voice remarkably aware of the self as mere postmodern construction, Clay also writes out of the self-reliant need to say I and mean exactly this one who is speaking. The poems that result sing themselves through their own complications, searching for that beautiful order language has no part of, but only language can reveal. Poetic quest evolves into the responsibility of poetic question, and Clay is responsible for he responds. ‘May I for a moment be nervous,’ the poet asks. The answer in the poems themselves is their wondrous nerve.”
“One of Adam Clay’s wonderful poems ends ‘and nature still acts / as though it does not see you.’ What I love about these poems is that they too are free of self-consciousness, sentient and surprising as only living things can be, intimate and compelling precisely because they don’t aim to please but to exist. In his own words again, reading this book is like ‘centering yourself along unrecorded boundaries’ that Clay has somehow managed to discern for us and translate into poems that are in turns clear and strange, and always warmly memorable.”
“With a voice that is at once beautifully intimate and strikingly honest, Adam Clay’s A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World is a remarkable exploration of the smallest human mysteries. Clay’s tenderness toward the world is contagious even while he dissects its sometimes brutal isolation. These poems hover in and out of dreams, follow the mind’s wild wanderings, interrogate language, reveal the heart’s ambitions, all the while remaining brilliantly anchored to the physicality of all things earthbound. This is a book that lives as much in the curious mind as it does in the undeniable weather of the real world, and Clay travels expertly between the two with a gentle, inspired grace.”