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
“In her second full-length collection, Metzger explores pregnancy, motherhood, grief, and bodily transformation. There’s a sparse formality to these poems, with their elegant imagery and philosophical musings, but they are also deeply human and grounded in the body. Blurring the boundaries between past and future, Metzger writes about the strangeness and wonder of creating new life and the contradictions inherent in being a new parent[. . .] This is a moving, vulnerable book and a welcome addition to the growing canon of complicated literature about motherhood.”
“These introspective lyrics consider the physical and psychic demands of motherhood and other forms of human relationship. Opening with a meditation on a difficult pregnancy—including a period of forced bed rest—the collection pushes back on the idea that gestation and birth are purely joyful experiences.”
“Elizabeth Metzger writes a taut, searing line. Compression isn’t the right word, because these are capacious poems, phrases that hold and open up worlds—of feeling, of experience, of memory mixed with a living moment. Efficient might be a more accurate description—or impeccable.”
“Metzger reimagines bed rest as everything from quarantine to a queenly throne, her tones ranging from uncensored envy [. . .] With word-perfect precision, Metzger gives voice to postpartum paradoxes.”
“This book is profound in the way it portrays love, loss, numbness and longing. … the overall arc of this amazing collection, ranging from poignance to the introspective, this body of work is a thoughtful offering that stays with the reader. I celebrate its unique relationship with language, its fine approach to storytelling, its ageless themes, cohesiveness, and how insightfully it delved into complex emotions and ideas, with sensitivity and depth. Lying In is one book to return to as often as one permits the longing for words that are devastatingly beautiful in their communication of experiences that leaves behind it, pools of light we never know how thirsty we are for.”
“Elizabeth Metzger’s Lying In is a book orbiting sacrifice, orbiting the way(s) one generation gives life then gives way to the next. She writes, ‘In wildfire ash / I teach our son the alphabet.’ A finger writes letters in the dust of dead trees—what is missing, what is gone, becomes language, literally becomes the shapes from which language is formed. Later, Metzger writes, ‘I brought a weather with me // but it was not expectable / that he would stay this long,’ and I tremble. Really, there is something of Dickinson’s elemental shudder in Metzger’s lyric; I feel it in that deep molten core of me only real art can touch. ‘What vision can be given? / What visible is true?’ Lying In is brilliant, no bullshit. Elizabeth Metzger has become one of my favorite living poets.”
“Elizabeth Metzger’s Lying In is a brave book about what enormous things you will do for those you love. Told from the perspective of bedrest, the book uncovers and examines the pain and possibility we all hold within us while lying still. Within this book, poetry lies itself on its own spacious bed, telling us all about the very strangeness of being and what great energy it takes to bother to exist at all. Metzger writes, ‘Child I bend around you / like a boat. / If you live / do not blame the wave.’ Within these lines, we are all the children of poetry, left there wondering if someone will save us. This book will save us.”
"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."