Trace (back cover)


“Elegant, complex, and rigorously truthful.” —CHASE TWICHELL
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Eric Pankey’s arresting ninth collection of poems, Trace, sits at the threshold between faith and doubt—between the visible and the invisible, the sayable and the ineffable, the physical and the metaphysical.

In Trace, Pankey creates images of both stark beauty and stark truth. The skeleton of a burning home becomes a children’s drawing of a house. The waning moon wears a mask, sheds grit, disappears in “straw effigy.” And the departure of a loved one is compared to the retreat of a glacier—leaving behind an exposed and scarred speaker. As the collection progresses, it maps a journey into deep depression, confronting one man’s struggle to overcome that condition’s smothering weight and presence. With remarkable clarity and complexity, Trace also charts the poet’s attempt to be inspired, to breathe again, to give breath and life to words.

Ever solemn, ever existential, Pankey’s poems find us at our most vulnerable, the moment when we as humans—believers and nonbelievers alike—must ultimately pause to question the uncertain fate of our souls.

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5.5 × 8.5 × 0.25 in
4.3 oz

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey is the author of numerous books of poems, most recently Augury and Crow-Work. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in such journals and anthologies as the New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and Best American Poetry. He is a professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University and resides in Fairfax, Virginia.

Praise and Prizes

  • “The poems in Trace come together to create a landscape both melancholy and utterly beautiful, balancing a careful awareness of the ‘once and the to be, / the frost-gnawed grain.’ Tracing the spiritual as he senses it move through the natural world, he reminds us again and again that to ‘occupy a space is to shape it,’ and the shaping of experience becomes finally the shaping of the page in language brilliantly wrought. Trace is Eric Pankey at his finest.”

    Claudia Emerson
  • “Eric Pankey’s poems gleam with authenticity. They are prayers sent into the unknown, for ‘one must penetrate the invisible to reside in the visible.’ One of their great pleasures is the door through which Pankey enters the mysteries: the natural world, with which he has profound intimacy. In language that is always elegant, complex, and rigorously truthful, he transfixes us with glimpses of what we can never fully know.”

    Chase Twichell
  • “Imbued with stark lyricism, Eric Pankey’s new poems are marvelous palimpsests on the struggles of faith.”

    Arthur Sze
  • “Eric Pankey’s poetic and spiritual turf has ever been the borderland between paradise and exile, that liminal territory which belongs both to sumptuous, symbiotic rapture and to the banished realm that makes language essential. Beauty-struck, dark with yearning, melancholy, and unlooked-for, salvific joy, these poems extend Pankey’s already capacious and original vision of the God-hungry, remnant self, and thus the lyric poem itself, in inimitably haunted and haunting ways.”

    Lisa Russ Spaar
  • “Eric Pankey’s ninth collection follows the poet into the hushed ‘gray dawn’ of depression as he searches, often in vain, for God, and for faith in nature and himself… . It’s hard to deny the conflict that Pankey explores honestly and powerfully in these new poems.”

    Publishers Weekly