Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing.
The poems in the first section, Versed, play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks: "Metaphor forms / a crust / beneath which / the crevasse of each experience." Dark Matter, the second section, alludes to more than the unseen substance thought to make up the majority of mass in the universe. The invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout's experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity, shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.
"The poet poses metaphysical questions with open endings: jarring moments in which the stakes are suddenly, impossibly high." - Publishers Weekly
"Poetry that conveys the invention, the wit and the force of a mind that contests all assumptions." New York Times"
"Armantrout's poetry has always been turned to the present moment. Its formal lineage is from William Carlos Williams and the Objectivists, with their enjambments of modern experience. ... Poetically, Armantrout has always aimed at knowing life by isolating it from narrative. Written under a diagnosis of cancer ("'I just called / to fill you in'"), Versed is a major and moving addition to a life's work in many-angled reflection." - Jeremy Noel-Tod, Times Literary Supplement
"Rae Armantrout is the most philosophical sort of poet, continually seeking in her collections to summon and surmise the contemporary character of subjective experience and, further, to test the limits of knowledge. ... Armantrout's writing in her latest volume, Versed, will thus be familiar to her longtime readers for its way of holding meaning (and identification) in uneasy suspension. Short lines in brief poems are polyvalent in both voicing and implication, inviting multiple readings. ...yet pleasure arises in contemplating both the options and the paradox." - Tom Griffin, Bookforum
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