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“Exquisitely intimate, philosophical, meticulous, and sensual.”—ARACELIS GIRMAY
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A meditation on art’s longevity and the brevity of human life from the highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Frail-Craft and Inmost.

Jessica Fisher brings “the faraway close,” through ruthless yet tender interrogations of possibility and permanence. Set against the backdrop of the fallen empire of Rome, Daywork takes its title from the giornata—the name in fresco painting for the section of wet plaster that can be painted in a single day, where each “day” is marked by the hidden seams in a finished painting.

In a voice that is as poised as it is unmistakably urgent, Fisher aims to uncover what adheres against the fabric of history, and what becomes effaced over time. Her search leads her to discover signs of ruin of a different kind, and her poems begin to coalesce around a single perilous realization: that time is not merely an agent of erasure. Time is also a tether, rendering violence, beauty, grief, and art separate merely by a matter of days. “So you see once again,” she writes, “violence is to beauty / as the warp to the weft / always somewhere beneath.”

Like the fresco itself, Daywork is committed to a time- and site-specific art, and to the daily work of creation. At once an elegiac meditation and a brave unearthing, this book expertly discerns the monumentalizing portrayals of history and its violences, while boldly illuminating other crucial accounts of everyday existence.

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8.5 × 5.5 × 0.25 in
7 oz

Jessica Fisher

Jessica Fisher is the author of Daywork. She is also the author of Frail-Craft, which won the 2006 Yale Younger Poets Prize, and Inmost, which was awarded the 2011 Nightboat Poetry Prize.

Praise and Prizes

  • “In lyric meditations that dwell as much in grief as on the work of art—from Michelangelo and Raphael to Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson—Jessica Fisher refutes the underlying violence of everyday life with parables that tell of the ‘deathlessness of art, the ancient / stories once more transformed—.’ Her horizon is as vast as a fresco wall, even if the world can only be measured in what a day can encompass in lines akin to shadows cast from a hundred sources of light. These stunning poems seek to remember what it was like to be a ‘wire once, conductive, mute,’ compelled to make it ‘matter that we were here at the same time, late capital post-industrial.’ The profound tenors of Daywork so ebb and intensify as to unite the sonic and philosophical registers of intimacy; the understanding that because ‘everything was / saying goodbye, that I / should listen more closely.’”

    Roberto Tejada
    author of Why the Assembly Disbanded
  • “How stunning this book of poems—exquisitely intimate, philosophical, meticulous, and sensual. Daywork seems to be salvaged from an inner depth, as though written through a mythically long night. Its sensing, gleaming syntax is at once steadfast and veering. I am astonished by the darkness and the candle (both) of Fisher’s gorgeous, singular mind.”

    Aracelis Girmay
    author of The Black Maria
  • “What are the poet’s responsibilities in regards to witnessing and rendering violence? Arriving, like all of us, in the middle of history, Fisher’s speaker reaches toward the fresco and other forms of art in search, if not of answers, then of language that is alive enough to survive its encounters with grief. It is precisely Fisher’s masterful command over the line that allows Daywork to revel in unruliness and to confront, one frame at a time, the beauty and uncertainty of ‘what it is to be alive now.’”

    Franny Choi
    author of The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On
  • [Daywork is] poetry as bracingly lyric as it is refreshing. […] This is the voice of poetry: the voice of a beloved speaking beside you.”

    Jesse Nathan, Poetry Society of America