a Year & other poems
From the celebrated author of feeld comes a formally commanding third collection, dexterously recounting the survival of a period suffused with mourning.
Jos Charles’s poems communicate with one another as neurons do: sharp, charged, in language that predates language. “A scandal / three cartons red / in a hedge / in / each the thousand eye research of flies.” With acute lyricism, she documents how a person endures seemingly relentless devastation—California wildfires, despotic legislation, housing insecurity—amid illusions of safety. “I wanted to believe,” Charles declares, “a corner a print leaned to / a corner can save / a people.” Still the house falls apart. Death visits and lingers. Belief proves, again and again, that belief alone is not enough.
Yet miraculously, one might still manage to seek—propelled by love, or hope, or sometimes only momentum—something better. There is a place where there are no futile longings, no persistent institutional threats to one’s life. Poems might take us there; tenderness, too, as long as we can manage to keep moving. “A current / gives as much as it has,” writes Charles—despite fire, despite loss.
Harrowing and gorgeous, a Year & other poems is an astonishing new collection from a poet of “unusual beauty and lyricism” (New Yorker).
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Praise and Prizes
“‘Months / I move in you’: so begins this brilliant lyric cycle, a daybook, a hymnbook, a book of whispers to the dead and the living, a book of lullabies, of songs, of spells. I can tell you that Jos Charles is one of my most favorite living poets. But what does that mean? It means that Charles can see how our ‘world is / a lake the shape of / a lake’ and set it to music. It means that she makes me believe in pure lyric again. It means that Charles knows how silence speaks between the lines, between syllables, and shows it to us as the pages (and days of the year) turn. Here is a poet who is a cousin of Niedecker and Celan and Valentine, a maker of silences that speak, of grievances that lyric us. It means Jos Charles is a kind of poet whose writing teach us to pay attention to our language again, because attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul. Because a true understanding is always silence. ‘I go / to put holly to the lip’ she says, and she takes us readers along for the ride. What a gift. Listen carefully to these pages, and you will find a ‘wind / on a microphone,’ and you will hear how ‘we wept / a quiet English / the day contained.’ What good luck to live in a time when such innermost music is made.”
“Measured in event and situated in survival, the poems of a Year & other poems contemplate form and the clock of calendar as they lyric and listen with thoughtful grief-rage. Of landscape and precarity, of naming and process, this quietly powerful verse cuts “like a scabbard we shuffle through.”