In Accelerated Silence: Poems book cover

In Accelerated Silence

“Both carefully observed and daringly philosophical … The cosmos aches, as it did for Orpheus and for Gilgamesh, and as it did for Eve.” —MARK DOTY
Select Format

Finalist for the 2021 Housatonic Book Award in Poetry

“The thin knife that severed your tumor,” writes Brooke Matson in these poems, “it cleaves me still.” What to do when a world is split—terribly, wholly—by grief? When the loss of the beloved undermines the most stable foundations, the most sacred spaces, of that world? What else but to interrogate the very fundamental principles themselves, all the knowns previously relied on: light, religion, physical matter, time?

Often borrowing voices and perspectives from its scientific subjects, In Accelerated Silence investigates the multidimensional nature of grief and its blurring of boundaries—between what is present and what is absent, between what is real and imagined, between the promises of science and the mysteries of human knowing, and between the pain that never ends and the world that refuses to. The grieving and the seeking go on, Matson suggests, but there comes a day when we emerge, “now strong enough / to venture out of doors, thin // and swathed in a robe,” only to find it has continued “full and flourishing and larger than before.”

Sensual and devastating, In Accelerated Silence—selected by Mark Doty as winner of the Jake Adam York Prize—creates an unforgettable portrait of loss full of urgency and heartache and philosophical daring.

alone, astrophysics, bereavement, chemistry, death, grief, grieving, life, loneliness, lonely, loss, metaphysical, missing, mourning, mystery, philosophical, poetry, poets, religion, sad, science, scientists, space, time
Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.25 in
6 oz

Brooke Matson

Brooke Matson is a poet, book artist, and the 2016 recipient of the Artist Trust GAP award and Centrum residency. Her first collection of poems, The Moons, was published by Blue Begonia Press in 2012; her second, In Accelerated Silence, was selected by Mark Doty as winner of the Jake Adam York Prize and will be published by Milkweed Editions in 2020.

Praise and Prizes

  • “Both anguished and unblinking, these poems deliver an understanding of being divided—tumor from body, self from beloved, and self from self after the fusion of passion burning hot as a megastar’s core. Accomplished poetry that will move those who have sorrowed—that is, everyone.”

    Library Journal, “Top Spring Poetry”
  • “Winner of the 2019 Jake Adam York Prize, Maton’s collection is particularly well-made, which is to say individual poems often astonish, but the arrangement of and interconnections among them make the whole vastly more than the sum of its parts … Matson is a generous poet as well as a virtuosic one, and her invitations to bay at the moon alongside her should be accepted with enthusiasm.”

  • “This book blends chemistry, astrophysics, light, and time with grief, mystery, resilience, and love into some truly gorgeous poems that you don’t have to be a scientist (or a poetry nerd) to love.”

    Electric Literature
  • “Matson is a poet of invention and precision, with a great eye for the telling detail, but, above all, she is a virtuoso musician with words.”

    California Review of Books
  • “At times vertiginous, at times hypnotic, Matson writes through the stages of grief, towards the sun, into a place of song. A powerful, engrossing second collection, In Accelerated Silence is for those who long to process the big things while living with the little things, here and now.”

  • “Matson’s second book of poetry, In Accelerated Silence, is primarily a work of grief. But it also embodies a personal interrogation of the universe, echoing the new understanding she gained from reading Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris, that as a poet, one can take on a host of voices, even and perhaps especially from things that don’t actually speak.”

    The Spokesman-Review
    Best Books of 2020
  • “[In Accelerated Silence] is a glittering and profound study of loss, existence and reemergence.”

  • “Brooke Matson’s In Accelerated Silence begins with an ode addressed to dark matter; she’s ‘relieved / you’re here to hold the aching / stars apart.’ The cosmos aches, as it did for Orpheus and for Gilgamesh, because the beloved has been lost, and as it did for Eve, once she could see that every living thing was mortal. Matson mourns the loss of an irreplaceable other, but the person who speaks to us in these poems seems almost to multiply and blur into alternate dimensions, admitting the losses of many. Inclusive, generous, both carefully observed and daringly philosophical, these poems reconfigure the elegy for this moment, praying to the ‘Dear wild unknown’ to ‘tow the borders of this universe far beyond our grasp.’”

    Mark Doty
  • “These are poems of the beloved, poems of loss, poems of the body in its many reds: red of the heart, red of muscle, red of wounds. Matson writes, ‘Understand: / anything can be red, / usually when someone or / something splits open.’ Here, eating a pomegranate is ‘like smashing a chest of rubies’; red giants are ‘stars smoldering / at the end of their lives.’ These are gorgeous meditations on love and the ‘flexible tissue’ of time—so much of one, not enough of the other. I gladly let In Accelerated Silence split me open, and a strange thing happened—it stitched me up at the same time.”

    Maggie Smith
  • “Using the idioms of biology, chemistry, physics, and astrophysics, Brooke Matson composes lyrics of grief and beauty where death is the ‘nameless blade / that strips us into wavelengths.’ Line after line, we feel the poet’s rage and power: ‘If I could have plucked you / like a mussel from your shell, / I would have swallowed you whole.’ But grief is never far from wonder here—and a profound, near-erotic reverence for the sensual, living world, where ‘there [are] spaces inside us / that ache toward light.’ For anyone who as ever mourned deeply and loved fiercely, this is your book.”

    Nicky Beer
  • “Devastating and luminous, In Accelerated Silence inventively examines and echoes the enigma of grief. Lit by a ‘violent need to know’ why we ‘break against laws,’ this book centers a particular, personal tragedy but resonates beyond into the mysterious galaxy of mourning where we are left unmoored, like planets still orbiting the cold cavities of space where our suns used to burn.”

    Matt Rasmussen