A devastating, vulnerable collection tracing high-risk pregnancy and new motherhood amid grief.
“All my life all I’ve wanted was to be myself / and someone else,” writes Elizabeth Metzger. From the shadowy perspective of confinement, where the presence of death unsettles all outcomes, these poems examine an expansion and fracturing of the self—into motherhood as well as childhood, into past selves and future unknowns. The child becomes parent, the parent becomes child, the child arrives but in doing so is lost. New loss haunts new life, and life becomes “one or two lives.” The door is more valuable than the prize behind it.
With ambivalence as well as deep feeling, Metzger wonders how a single body can be expected to hold both immense joy and immense mourning, profound longing and creeping numbness, when one so often overtakes the other. She plunges into the darkness inside—of the gloomy room, the inner body, the afterlife and the pre-language mind—and sends back “a searchlight across the underworld,” Eurydice in search of herself.
Aching and contemplative, Lying In is an exquisite portrait of an in-between time—and of the person who emerges on the other side. “Isn’t it obvious how we’ve changed?”
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Praise and Prizes
"What an intimate, intense book of poems Elizabeth Metzger has written! Fueled by the honest combination of ardor and rage at the heart of motherhood, Lying In is full of arias, sung to the self and others, persistent and daring. These are occasioned by the actual confinement of the title (two difficult pregnancies), but that literal confinement mirrors a (potentially) universal condition—that of any life willing to grieve the real limits of our bewildering world, any reader willing to acknowledge the bewildering intensity of 'the voluntary nature of staying alive.' It is the mystery of the human will in continuing resistance that this book explores, as fragile as that sometimes seems. To do this, Metzger must be focused as a sniper, lying in wait to catch in language a truth that lies just past what can be said—and she is."