Poetry

Circle Back

Poems
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An aching meditation on the cyclical nature of grief and memory’s limited capacity to preserve everything time takes from us.
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An aching meditation on the cyclical nature of grief and memory’s limited capacity to preserve everything time takes from us.

How does one make sense of loss—personal and collective? When language and memory are at capacity, where do we turn? Confronted with “a year meant to end all / those to come,” acclaimed poet Adam Clay questions whether anything is “wide enough to contain what’s left / of hope.” In the absence of a clear way forward, the poems of Circle Back wander grief’s strange and winding path. Along the way, the line between reality and dreams blurs: cows stare with otherworldly eyes, 78s play under cactus needles, a father becomes his own child, and the dead become something more complicated—a “sketch turned to painting / left in a room dusty from / lack of passing through.”

But amidst these liminal landscapes, a “thread of promise” persists in poetry. As flawed as language is, we still turn to it for longevity, for love, like “Keats, / sketching himself back into place.” Vulnerable and nuanced, Clay details the difficult work of healing—and in doing so, captures those needful moments of reprieve in grief’s “strange circle.” Two friends dashing through a sprinkler. A garden of startled birds. Out for a run some gray morning: a sudden patch of wildflowers. Circle Back is a bared heart, one readers will find as thoughtful as it is tender.

Keywords
grief; mourning; loss; death; pandemic poetry; depression; 2020; Mississippi; Arkansas; fatherhood; aging; memory
ISBN
9781639550982
Publish Date
Pages
88
Dimensions
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.25 in
Weight
7 oz
Author

Adam Clay

Adam Clay is the author of five collections of poems: Circle Back, To Make Room for the Sea, Stranger, A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World, and The Wash.

Praise and Prizes

  • Circle Back’s originality is found in the deep exploration of common shared emotion. Clay uses the singular experience of his speaker, whether through grief, quarantine, the end of the world, as an example we can all relate to. I am struck by his thin flowing strophes that resemble James Schuyler’s Morning of the Poem, they move like the unraveling of a thread. There is a sense of continuous falling only to find return again and again to the same conclusions. Clay’s intimate and tender interrogation of the state of the world––its nature, its inhabitants, its grief, its joy, its destruction––feel familiar because they are real and we must ask ourselves over and over again, how many times do we have to say something is unraveling before it is too late to sew it back?”

    Matthew Buxton
    Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI