Elegant and contemplative, Adam Clay’s third collection of poems explores what it means for our lives to change—dwelling on the moments decisions are made, and the repercussions we grow with afterward.
A move. A new job. The birth of a child. In these intimate, bewildering developments—as familiar as the houses and ever-changing as the lakes and rivers that populate these poems—Clay finds that the only map available is “not of the world / but of the path I took to arrive in this place / a map with no real definable future purpose.” Yet in these changes Clay reveals joy and wonder, staring into the heart of transition and finding in it the wisdom that “Despite our best efforts to will it shut / the proof of the world’s existence / can best be seen in its insistence / in its opening up.” Deeply rooted in beauties both domestic and wild—capturing the richest elements of the earth and the instability of a shifting sky—Stranger collapses the past and the future into the lived moment, allowing for an unclouded view of a way forward.
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Praise and Prizes
“With each deliberate, rigorous, and perfect line, Stranger works itself into a heartbreakingly stunning collection dedicated to the unsung suspension of time that occurs when life suddenly goes awry. This is a masterful book of poems that beautifully uncovers the hallways, houses, seasons, and states that separate us from each other, and from ourselves. Adam Clay is a poet who gives a voice to the unimaginable deluge of similar days in the domestic life, and yet somehow manages to anchor us even more completely to this world with his brilliance.”
“Adam Clay’s writing is spiritually superior to any effort I can make to describe it. . . . He has that perfect combination, the discipline of language and the power of the image.”
“If you’re the type who can’t stomach small talk, Stranger makes for terrific company. These fluid and unremitting poems counter every disaster at every corner, in ‘a place unfit for a poet / but not a place / unfit for other people / who calmly disregard / everything but winter / in a terrifying way.’ Refusing to placate or console his reader, Adam Clay proves himself one of our most challenging and brilliant poets.”
“In placing itself along the edge of the seasons of adult life, in its constant questioning of what it means to speak and exist, and in its clean and spare style, Stranger is poignant and thoughtful, capable of viewing a transitioning world with curiosity.”
“I’ve always thought the body to be a kind of mind and in these poems, precise lyrics detailing the most ordinary times, Adam Clay seems to agree. In those moments when one rearranges the furniture in a room or leaves the cast iron skillet in the oven or contemplates an ink stain on the wall, Clay finds a space for deep inquiry. Being is thinking, these poems claim, and they stake that claim in the space between a phenomenon and a human reaching after an understanding of a world that its experience does not measure.”