Moving from the mundane to the profound, first through observation of fact and matter, then shifting perspective, engaging a deeper sense of self, these poems re-imagine things great and small, making us care deeply about the world around us. In this cultivated and intricately crafted collection, Sally Keith shows the self as a crucible of force - that which compels us to exert ourselves upon the world, and meanwhile renders us vulnerable to it. Force by which a line unfurls - as in Robert Smithson's colossal Spiral Jetty - or leads with forward motion - a train hurdling along the west-reaching railroad; Edweard Muybridge's photographic reels charting animal and human locomotion. With poems remarkable in their clarity, captivating in their matter-of-factness, Keith examines the impossible and inevitable privacy of being a person in the world, meanwhile negotiating an inexorable pull toward the places we call home - one we alternately try and fail to resist.
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"Starred Review. At their best, these acrobatic movements from one fact or phrase to a disparate other are not whimsical non sequiturs but revelations bridging history and the inner life. For Keith, discoveries in any discipline - from physics to painting - push humanity forward " - Publishers Weekly
"Presenting a tone of balanced offhandedness, Keith's work is worth investigating by those who want a well-rounded sense of modern poetry. Recommended." - Library Journal
"Through contemporary voices and timeless contexts, these haunting poems fracture - then rebuild - lyric expectations. At times drawing from science and art, epic and elegy, The Fact of the Matter transcends, finally, description's easy borders. Its achievement is singular and stunning - and places Sally Keith at the forefront of younger American poets." - Linda Bierds, author of First Hand
Between force and fault, Sally Keith's The Fact of the Matter does its necessary, beautiful work. In these poems 'stuck on the intricate work,' Keith proves herself not only among this generation's most vital poets, she reveals herself as a profound thinker of art's complicated relation to the people and events that fill it. 'I need some force to deal with time,' Keith says; she says, 'Mostly we are vulnerable.' A poem seems to be that which deals with time by resisting its relentlessly mortal march; in doing so it reveals the flaw of our own mortality. One cannot occur without the other, Keith knows. And so these poems trace the ongoing existences of disparate forces: Achilles mourning his lover's death, Muybridge's photos of a horse at full gallop, the act (and re-enactment) of the golden spike connecting the nation by rail, Smithson's spiral jetty, dinner with her mother, and diseased oaks in the yard. Keith sees in ways as deeply moral as they are beautiful that art not only records force, but is a force itself, shaping the world it describes. The result is a poetry that asks of itself questions a lesser art would flee, a poetry of radical doubt because it is a poetry of actual faith. They speak lovingly of love's complications - love as a force that depends on fault - and gives to its readers one of the few actual blessings I know: poems unsparing in their care." - Dan Beachy-Quick, author of A Whaler's Dictionary and Wonderful Investigations
"Stunning - haunting - quiet revelations, sometimes half withheld - words heard across a table, across continents, across centuries. These poems are the still moments between actions; time slowed to its instants (as in Muybridge's photo-sequences) then silently reassembled, so that a thousand years ago is yesterday. Achilles removes his helmet in the next room while Dürer prepares a pigment. These are the unheard whispers of the Odyssey, the hidden corners of the master's studio. Poems and Paintings and History and Love and the space one leaves them for. Fall out of and into time. Herein is purest magic." - Martin Corless-Smith, author of English Fragments: A Brief History of the Soul
"In these poems, Sally Keith finds that hinge between the world and its weaving into art (the eye of the observer meeting the force of the world). Force, says Simone Weil, turns humans to things; but beauty is also a force, and both forms are here turned from their inexorable forward movement toward the making of the artist, who transforms their energy into pictures and sounds so crystalline and still we can apprehend the place motion itself begins." - Eleni Sikelianos, author of The California Poem and Body Clock
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Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia's Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.
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