Cleveland State University Poetry Center

New and Recent Releases

Uncanny Valley by Jon Woodward || $15.95

Winner of the 2011 Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition. The unforgettable, idiosyncratic poems in Woodward's highly musical and obsessively incantatory third collection bring to mind the metaphysical voids of Samuel Beckett's plays and the voyages of Charles Darwin as they rediscover and seek to inhabit an uncomfortably familiar natural world: "A hurricane came and caused the land to open. / Also fire, pestilence, and benevolent compassion. / Much later there was a terrible car accident. / Whatever or whatever climbed out of the wreck alive."

The Hartford Book by Samuel Amadon || $15.95

In Samuel Amadon's intense, second collection, a sequence of meditative and darkly comic postmodern narratives about what it is like to be from Hartford, Connecticut, we stagger with the speaker down the streets of his still-present past, together with a motley cast of crackheads, liars, scoundrels, and unlikely heroes. "The speaker is on the rack and only timidly aware of the torture he cannot help wreaking. Our poetry will never be the same now Amadon has spoken, our language can be entirely different. Happily for us" Richard Howard.

Mother Was a Tragic Girl by Sandra Simonds  || $15.95

"What does it mean to be a used white wife, a mother, a tragic girl writing poems? Sandra Simonds gets into these messy words and then tears them apart. Sometimes with the words of others. And sometimes with poems made from scratch. They aren't all bad, these words. But they aren't all good either. And that is where MOTHER WAS A TRAGIC GIRL gets its power. You will at moments be laughing but then you will also at moments just as much be crying. If Antigone was alive and decided to write some poems about the nuclear family, she would write them like Sandra Simonds. These are tough" Juliana Spahr.

I Live in a Hut by S.E.Smith || $15.95

Winner of the 2011 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, selected by Matthea Harvey. The poems in S. E. Smith's debut collection are caffeinated, wildly comic, assured maximalist performances introducing such characters as three slutty bears, a horse thief named Dirk, Becky Home-ecky, and a pony of darkness. Divided into sections appropriately titled "Parties," "Beauty," and "Devastation," Smith's book is at once free-spirited, metaphysically inquisitve, and romantically exuberant: "If god wanted us to be strangers, why would he place us / next to each other in the movie theater and make us think / our knees are touching when they're really a few inches / apart? Looking at Anita Ekberg's breasts, we can see / the future. It is soft, pink, and frolics in a fountain / where the sea gods bathe their weary feet."

The Grief Performance by Emily Kendal Frey || $15.95

"Emily Kendal Frey performs grief and dread as a graceful dance, the kind the tree you cut down in your backyard might do on your heart. This work is light, deft, dangerous. There are perfect poems here, such as 'The End,' which enacts a simple, startling twist on the hoary injunction to 'Walk towards the light.' See, everything you know is wrong. You really have to read this book."—Rae Amrantrout


The Firestorm by Zach Savich || $15.95

"Take Zach Savich's THE FIRESTORM as one proof of Emerson's assertion that the mind's nature is volcanic. A firestorm is such a conflagration that it produces above it its own atmosphere. And so a reader finds in Savich's pages a super-heated cloud in which the poet's voice grows multiple, grows active, and the poem records the intimate collisions of lines that veer from prophecy to aphorism to ribald wit to stoic speculation. If this sounds nebulous, it is not. It is fulgurative, lightning-like, shot through sudden flashes of experience that in the sudden afterglow reveal that experience also experiences itself. Such is the complicated place where wit turns witness, and in doing so, opens up the deeper ironies—ironies that at first glance seem quite plain: 'I have forgotten if I am pulling the curtain open or closed.' Savich pulls the curtain open and closed, showing us again poetry's paradoxical necessity: that the poem must show and hide at once, reveal and obscure simultaneously, and that a song that thinks makes of its melody a matter that matters"—Dan Beachy-Quick.

Rust or Go Missing by Lily Brown || $15.95

The poems in Lily Brown’s Rust or Go Missing exist in the liminal space between the literal and the imagined, the rational and the irrational, the abstract and the representational. They think themselves into being, and in so doing, become not just reflections on lived and imagined experience, but experiences in themselves.

Say So by Dora Malech || $15.95

The poems in Say So are at once rigorously formal and wildly experimental. Human utterance—be it prayer or plea or pun or turn of phrase or epithet—is one of Say So’s primary pistons; poetic tradition—rhyme, meter, form, rhetoric—is another; the beauty and betrayals of the body, or bodies—echoed in the beauty and betrayal of language itself—is a third. Together, these forces provide the pressure that makes Say So move and brings these poems to life.

Mule by Shane McCrae || $15.95

Mule is actually a very personal, very autobiographical book. In it, the author addresses his at the time failing second marriage (which he is no longer in), his son’s autism, his own racial identity, and some of his beliefs about God.


You Don't Know What You Don't Know by John Bradley || $15.95

Winner, 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition

A collection of prose poems that might be described as Franz Kafka and Frida Kahlo going out for a date at Coney Island. The book reflects what happens when you drop an American history textbook, an issue of People, and a short history of dreams into a blender.

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.

Brazil by Jesse Lee Kercheval || $9.95

Winner, 2008 Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest Selected by Josip Novakovich

Brazil is a quintessential American road trip. Paulo, an 18 year old bell boy in a Miami Beach hotel, and Claudia, a wealthy Hungarian refugee, take off on a night drive that turns into a crosscountry journey, a sleep deprived search for the real America and for missing family, a fast-moving car trip into her past and toward their future.

Snaketown by Kathleen Wakefield || $9.95

Winner, 2007 Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest Selected by Steve Lattimore

Snaketown tells of a place that captivates and holds hostage, a place hermitic and congenital like the families that populate it. It tells the story of heredity and tragedy; how evil can magnetize as mightily as beauty, how a family, nostalgic for past times— devastating times—can revise damaging, damning memory; how the familiar should never be trusted.

Destruction Myth poems by Mathias Svalina || $15.95

To read a "Creation Myth" on Poetry Daily, click here.

“In the beginning, everyone looked like Larry Bird. In the beginning, there was a rotting pig corpse. Everyone wanted to fight to the death. There was a hole in the basement floor. And a bunny with a broken leg. There were ghosts. Evildoers. A gun. Bacon. Cologne. A pencil. In these inventive, often deeply unnerving poems, Mathias Svalina offers us a string of forty-four creation myths and one longer, unsettling destruction myth. The result is a sonically complex, breathtakingly witty book, a collection of poems that surprises first with its wildly orchestrated clamor of narratives then, on reflection, surprises all over again with its intelligence and insight into the many ways we tell stories, the many means by which we imagine ourselves participating in them. This is an ambitious, brilliant first book.” 
—Kevin Prufer  

Sum of Every Lost Ship poems by Allison Titus || $15.95

Click here to view Former Automotive Plant on Verse Daily.

This debut collection of poems is both fascinated with and distracted by our impending endings and leave-takings, the loneliness of animals, and “how the histories of things eat.” These poems populate empty parking lots and seaside pawnshops and depart from a port at Deadhorse, Alaska. A narwhal gives cryptic advice to those requiring guidance on eulogies, arctic travel, and extracting minerals from ghosts. Allison Titus presents us with quiet meditations on how absence often remains fixed as longing, a red thread knotted at the wrist.

Horse Dance Underwater poems by Helena Mesa || $15.95

To see Rigoberto Gonzalez's review of Horse Dance Underwater in the El Paso Times, click here.
To see a review of Horse Dance Underwater in Midwest Book Review, click here.

“The poems in Helena Mesa’s virtuosic first book, Horse Dance Underwater, run with such speed, verve, and alacrity they leave you breathless, exhilarated, and transformed as if the purest kind of song had lifted you into the air.  By this quickness of language finding lyric speech, Mesa’s poems remind us of art’s joyous and ecstatic effects.”
 — Michael Collier

Trust poems by Liz Waldner || $15.95
Winner of the 2008 Open Book Competition, selected by the Open Book Editorial Committee

“Liz Waldner's Trust is a book I’ve been waiting to read for years. Political in the extreme, deliciously crafted, as menacing as it is hysterical, as intellectually sophisticated as it is laugh-out-loud funny, this book ought to be written in silver pen on bathroom stalls, sent as gold records to outer space,  or  written in gin on a  glass-top table  in  your
favorite karaoke bar. Slip a copy into your shoulder-bag and take it wherever you go.”
— Kazim Ali, author of The Fortieth Day

Self-Portrait with Crayon poems by Allison Benis White || $15.95
Winner of the 2008 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, selected by Robert Hill Long

“An oblique conversation with Degas reigns throughout this collection of oddly heartbreaking pieces. Against the backdrop of his paintings and sketches, we find ourselves in an intimate world, coherent but uncanny, where private memory becomes inseparable from the culture we hold in common, and all of it just barely cracked open, riven by interstices through which we glimpse the vivid but unsayable. White has given us a truly exceptional first collection, deeply musical and intricately haunting.”
— Cole Swensen, author of Ours and The Book of A Hundred Hands

A Martyr for Suzy Kosasovich a novella by Patrick Michael Finn || $15.95

In A Martyr for Suzy Kosasovich, Patrick Michael Finn writes of the disappearing Midwest, of Joliet, Illinois, and its factories and assembly lines and rail yards leading out of town. The tension and violence that mark this fierce portrait of urban decay are tempered by Finn's insistence that the people in this world endure. Finn's voice is striking, rich with the poetry of lives measured by time clocks and fistfights, and his novella seethes with dark and fascinating magic.
-- Michael Jaime-Becerra, author of Every Night is Ladies' Night