Moving the Bones

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Moving the Bones is a piercing lyric account of what we’ve been living through—together, but alone—and what we continue to find fearful, fascinating, and beloved.”—DAVID BAKER
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A vulnerable and honest collection of poems exploring lineage, love, and the pandemic, from one of the most acclaimed poets of his generation.

“You are told to believe in one paradise / and then there is the paradise you come to know,” begins Rick Barot. What follows is an account of the rich and thorny valley between those poles. Moving the Bones dwells in liminal spaces—of love and memory, the pandemic’s singular domesticity, a serene cemetery of ancestral plots, dawn. In precise and tender verse, Barot captures the particularities of being in the middle of one’s life, reflecting on the joys and sorrows of the past and confronting the inevitabilities that lie ahead.

For Barot, this presence of mind is an art of being lost in thought. “My mind has a slow metabolism, it is slow / to understand what anything means,” he confides, “but understands that if you look at something / long enough, it will have something / to say to you.” Appreciating a Rembrandt, standing in a Goodwill, watching a boy with a flower behind his ear—we encounter ephemeral murmurs of meaning everywhere, but only by slowing down, listening. If we take time to notice the enduring insights of daily moments, if we praise cherry blossoms, lungs, and crying, we might find it easier to bear the loss of a loved one, the sting of solitude, the body’s decline.

By laying bare his own experiences, Barot brings us close enough to witness the lyrical work of consciousness. Patient and attentive, this collection illuminates the everyday and invites us to find pleasure in doing the same, at every stage of life.

Publish Date
8.5 × 6 × 0.25 in
7 oz

Rick Barot

Rick Barot is the author of Moving the Bones. He was born in the Philippines, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and attended Wesleyan University and The Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.His fourth book of poems The Galleons was published by Milkweed Editions in 2020. It was listed on the top ten poetry books for 2020 by the New York Public Library, was a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Book Awards, and was on the longlist for the National Book Award. He teaches at Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Praise and Prizes

  • “Rick Barot’s superb new Moving the Bones measures the textures of one man’s moving interiority—an interiority, I should add, fully mindful of the world of others, from his Filipino ancestors to his family, lovers, neighbors, and fellow citizens. Central to his poetry is Barot’s ability to turn story into meditation, balancing clarities of both phrasing and form. Central to the book itself is Barot’s prose-poem sequence ‘During the Pandemic.’ This powerful suite comes precisely at the book’s midpoint, less interruption than inevitability, capturing the stillness and boredom of quarantine, our new habits borne of isolation and anxiety, and, of course, the gnawing fear of ‘what people thought they needed. Bread and bleach and guns.’ Moving the Bones is a piercing lyric account of what we’ve been living through—together, but alone—and what we continue to find fearful, fascinating, and beloved.”

    David Baker
    author of Whale Fall
  • “I read Moving the Bones heart quaking, humbled, and held in thrall by Rick Barot’s tender yet rigorous attention. An old lover’s marginalia, Rembrandt’s middle-aged self-portrait, mason jars filled with rice, gulls like scissors in flight: each and all are observed with the clear-eyed vision of prayer. But Barot is not merely investigating the spirit, he is engaging intimately with time—the objects, images, and bodies that make our time on earth so poignant and specific and, at the same time, measure mortal time’s brevity. Such patient, masterful looking—for Barot’s attention is above all visionary—testifies to the fearless intelligence and emotion of these poems. Moving the Bones is a book of great daring and even greater vulnerability.”

    Jennifer Chang
    author of Some Say the Lark
  • “The poems in Moving the Bones are restless and reflective, always suggesting the deep currents of a brilliant mind at work or the urgent intimacy of a whispered voice. Here, Barot mourns the passage of life, the irretrievability of the past, the vagaries of memory. Here, he offers the most exquisite and personal meditations on the pandemic, on isolation, and on ethical thought. ‘I sat / in that room,’ he tells us, ‘writing toward the bright / new world I am always trying / to write into.” I am so glad he has taken us with him. Rick Barot is certainly one of the most gifted poets of his—of our—generation.”

    Kevin Prufer
    author of The Fears
  • “Rick Barot’s Moving the Bones, by one of our generation’s most skillful lyric poets, is a luminous tour de force that’s by turns metaphysical and mournful, exacting and hopeful. Anchored by a vertiginous centerpiece of thirty meditative prose poems written during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, these gems affirm that poems are both ‘a civic space and a lyric space at once,’ as they reckon with isolation, fear, protest, time, and desire. This book pulses with immense heart and intensity, offering careful attention to both the philosophical and the quotidian: ‘if you look at something / long enough, it will have something / to say to you.’ And even through difficulty and loss, Barot reminds us—‘You are here. You can begin again. You can rise.’”

    Erika Meitner
    author of Useful Junk
  • My wish for you, reader, is that you have enough time. Time to slowly savor Rick Barot’s new book of poems, Moving the Bones. Time to sit inside his loving embrace of the world. Time to cry if you need to, because of the tenderness these poems expose. Love and loss and landscapes of deepest longing—to be able to truly know these, as I do through Barot’s poems, feels like one of the great gifts of our time.”

    Camille T. Dungy
    author of Trophic Cascade