To Make Room for the Sea
To Make Room for the Sea reckons with the notion that nothing in this world is permanent. Led by an introspective speaker, these poems examine a landscape that resists full focus, and conclude that “it’s easier to love what we don’t know.”
“I hold this leaf I think / you should see, but I can’t quite / say why,” Adam Clay writes, as he navigates a variety of both personal and ecological fixations: disembodied bullfrog croaks, the growth of his child, a computer’s dreaded blue screen of death. The observations in To Make Room for the Sea convey both grief for the Anthropocene and hope for the future. The poems read like field notes from someone who knows the world and hopes to know it differently.
On the precipice of great change and restructured perspective, Clay’s poems linger in “the second between taking in a vision and processing it,” in the moment when the world is less a familiar system and more a palette of colors and potential.
To Make Room for the Sea delights as much as it mourns. It looks forward as much as it reflects. Deft and hopeful, the poems in this collection gently encourage us to take another look at a world “only some strange god might have thought up / in a drunken stumble.”
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“[An] accomplished, formally dexterous collection . . . discovering hope and fulfillment in the intricacies of human connection.”
“There’s a deep sense of elegy in the collection’s tone. Utilizing a circular rhythm and logic that bends toward return—whether from sleep to wakefulness, or from abstraction to physicality—the poems evoke a complex wistfulness.”
“In their lyrical phrasings and human connection to the everyday, the poems in To Make Room for the Sea vividly paint images of the space between known and unknown, the space where hope first takes its hold. The result is a collection of meditative poems that never lose faith in the persistence of the human spirit. Experiencing the world painted by Adam Clay is to discover that most enduring of human traits: the will to survive.”
"In a time of uncertainty and upheaval, both personal and collective, 'Life mostly feels like walking the line / between an elegy and an ode'—and the poems in To Make Room for the Sea walk that line, too, between searching and wise, melancholy and hopeful. Perhaps the most seductive part of the book is the questions the poems ask: 'What replaces the irreplaceable?' 'What can be taken back?' 'How willful must one / be to stop the body from enacting / the mind?' And that's the magic of this book—the way Adam Clay, line after line, enacts the mind on the page."
“Clay converts his powers of observation to a force of love. Because these poems pay such inquisitive and gentle attention to the rooms through which the writer moves, to the faces and phrases he happens upon, they illuminate what the novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson calls the 'dear ordinary.' To find the ordinary dear—it is a more difficult task than one might guess. It is also, undoubtedly, a nudge toward kindness.”
“In Adam Clay’s achingly beautiful new collection, To Make Room for the Sea, love is also and always a story that changes as inevitably as seasons. Within these meditative lyrics, silence never searches for an answer but a mind does, and each poem feels like ‘a prayer for the oldest worlds within us.’ Stretched between grief and praise, Clay studies trees, parenthood, the sky, the moments that make loneliness new. These poems remind me that no matter the losses we face, we hold on because, like blossoms, our survival depends on it.”
“With its soaring phrasings, its exquisite collage of major and minor, and its potent imagery of the painter and the painted, Adam Clay's To Make Room For the Sea recalls Joni Mitchell at her most enduring. Time and chance reorganize our lives and selves; Clay's new collection responds with shock and smarts and tenderness and a continuous commitment to dwelling in the space of unknowing. From the hushed and simmering to the nearly operatic, these poems burn bright as the cardinal that 'looked / nuclear at a distance.' They refuse to turn away from the totalizing responsibility we have toward one another: how it undoes us, how it saves us, how it goes on.”
“To Make Room for the Sea is an exhibition of what the meditative poem is and what it can do. And Adam Clay wants us to know that one of the things it can indeed do is 'Marvel at what the body will do/To survive.' I am most taken by how many times this book risks making use of the word 'hope,' and at how each poem that does so earns it every time. This is a beautiful book of persistence, of fatherhood, of romance, of heartbreak, of the American South and what its history can mean for those who leave it and return, and yes, this is a book about faith.”