Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Clamor by Elyse Fenton

Clamor by Elyse Fenton || $15.95

Winner, 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize Selected by D. A. Powell

Written in part while Fenton’s husband was deployed as a medic in Baghdad, Clamor loosely follows the narrative arc of weeks breathlessly suspended between imminences: word or silence, return or tragedy, heartbreak or gratitude. Yet these are poems that refuse to be sentimental or didactic. Instead, they marry with lyric ferocity the personal and the political in an examination of language and love in 21st century wartime.

Elyse Fenton wins the 2013 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America

Elyse Fenton wins Wales' $48,000 Dylan Thomas Prize

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Cold Front Magazine Review

"Elyse Fenton chosen by poet Rachel Zucker as a Poetry Society of America New Poet for 2011"

Congratulations to Shane McCrae, author of Mule, and Elyse Fenton, author of Clamor, whose books are on the 2011 SPD annual poetry bestseller list, at #25 and #3, respectively!


Staking fencing along the border of the spring
garden I want suddenly to say something about
this word that means sound and soundlessness
at once.  The deafening metal of my hammer strikes
wood, a tuning fork tuning my ears to a register
I’m too deaf to understand.  Across the yard

each petal dithers from the far pear one white
cheek at a time like one blade of snow into
the next until the yard looks like the sound
of a television screen tuned last night to late-
night static. White as a page or a field where
I often go to find the promise of evidence of you

or your unit’s safe return. But instead of foot-
prints in the frosted static there’s only late-
turned-early news and the newest image of a war
that can’t be finished or won. And because last
night I turned away from the television’s promise
of you I’m still away.  I’ve staked myself

deep to the unrung ground, hammer humming
in my hand, the screen’s aborted stop-time still
turning over in my head: a white twist of rag
pinned in the bloody center of a civilian’s chest,
a sign we know just enough to know it means
surrender, there in the place a falling petal’s heart would be.

“From the smoldering wreckage of a battle-scarred Iraq to ‘the last unmuzzled throatful of air,’ Elyse Fenton’s debut collection clamors with such exigency that it drops us right into the danger zone. Her art is precise, persistent and volatile when deployed to the front lines. But also, sparing: ‘a human camera’ embedded within a relationship tested by the distance from battlefield to home. This book certainly has its disquietude—but how else to measure the brutality of the world? The recompense of it, though, is Fenton’s passionate eloquence; her unfaltering fidelity to the word.”
—D. A. Powell

Clamor connects the forward operating bases in Iraq with the homefront here in America. It is a necessary poetry which brings us the ‘work of shrapnel;’ ‘the thing that, trying and trying—/ you can never spit out’ (while continually recognizing that there is always more to give). In keeping with the best traditions of war poetry, the underlying subjects of Clamor are love and loss. Clamor is a book that refuses to turn away. It exists within the deeply personal, the deeply private, and yet—as the poems finish within the reader—it is a work which ultimately speaks to the universal.”
—Brian Turner

“With lines that show an unyielding dedication to craft, these poems are not afraid of meaning or the meaningful. More and more every day, the thinking American asks how she is to believe in love when there is war all about her, and in each of her deeply felt lyrics, Elyse Fenton confronts this question with the kind of tenderness one lover reserves for another. If every poem is indeed a love poem, Clamor is indeed a debut worth reading and about which we must make noise.”
—Jericho Brown

“The astonishing paradox of Elyse Fenton’s Clamor lies in its raw, disturbing subject matter: the Iraq war, the body’s destruction, desolation, and grief, set against an achingly beautiful love poetry. From ‘the fever dream of wartime chaos and debris’ Fenton deftly and unabashedly tells a story of passion and doubt, of the terrible waiting and an otherworldly reunion, what we are capable of doing to and for each other, and what we do to endure.”
—Dorianne Laux

• • •

Elyse Fenton is the wife of an Iraq War medic. Her collection Clamor was selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award, she has published her poetry and nonfiction in The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times. She received her MFA from the University of Oregon and divides her time unevenly between Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.

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