A bold poetic intervention into the pastoral tradition.
Elizabeth Willis’s new collection is a stunning collision of the pastoral tradition with the politics of the post-industrial age. These poems are allusive and tough. While they celebrate the pleasures of the natural world—mutability, desire, and the flowering of things—they are compounded by a critical awareness of contemporary culture. As we traverse their associative leaps, we discover a linguistic landscape that is part garden, part wilderness, where a poem can perform its own natural history. Divided into four cantos interrupted by lyrics and errata, Meteoric Flowers mirrors the form of Erasmus Darwin's 18th-century scientific pastorals. In attending to poetry's investigative potential, Willis shifts our attention from product to process, from commodity to exchange, from inherited convention to improvisational use.
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Reviews / Endorsements:
"Clipped and straight along the margins, the prose poem gives the physical impression of a hedge and provides a wonderfully self-contained vehicle for the jumps and turns that power Willis's capricious thread, lending wild assertions a matter-of-fact directness. This is not a sprawling poetry of staggering accumulation. It is a structured, trimmed, wrought coexistence, each poem its own ecosystem building on the concerns and language of the surrounding pieces. ...(L)ike these poems, meteoric flowers are at once fiercely independent yet still responsive, recognizable while new and strange."—Stefania Heim, Boston Review
"In light of the variety of worlds provided us in Meteoric Flowers, I think it's safe to say that Willis is an ambitious and - dare I say it? - inspired poet. And let's not forget how gorgeous so many of the lines are throughout the book. I can think of very few poets who would risk writing something like "I don't remember my first brush with pollen, yet I've watched words flower sideways across your mouth." Willis provides us with this and other intoxicating delights. She works onward to position such consistently surprising and mysterious beauties of language within an intellectually-driven framework, one predicated on the exploration of literary, natural, and spiritual histories as they determine our contemporary "reality." I can't wait to see what Willis comes up with next!"—Jacket
"Meteoric Flowers, by its own admission, is 'a modern letter sent from antiquity'; taking Erasmus Darwin as its muse, it attempts to write towards the present from the pre-Industrial Revolution past. Still, the book labors under no real delusions about escaping its context; it only moves to the past to better understand the present."—Rain Taxi Magazine
“Elizabeth Willis is an exceptional poet, one of the most outstanding of her generation, and Meteoric Flowers is her most compelling collection to date.” —Susan Howe
“This book is a remarkable investigation of our experience and language. The poems have a rich music, but the energy radiates most strongly from the intersection of emotion and intelligence, from the cut, the startling leap, the way her sequences turn corners, build up unexpected tensions and progressions. Meteoric Flowers is a truly contemporary vision.”—Rosmarie Waldrop
From the Book:
Fluent in applejack, I’m knocked off my horse but gaining
on liberty. No one spends all his life tanked, what do I
mean “spends”? What do I mean “his”? I’m wiping my
face on your sleeve as if I’m looking through my own sun.
We live in the flower, so I can’t taste anything. It’s that hot,
Tex, a new kind of glue. O, I think therefore I green the
grass I’m pinned on.
ELIZABETH WILLIS is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University. She is the author of three previous volumes of poetry, including The Human Abstract (1995), a National Poetry Series selection, and lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts.