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Rae Armantrout

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2009 • 136 pp. 6 x 9"

$16.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7091-8
$24.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6879-3

$12.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7110-6

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Trying to read a book by Rae Armantrout in a single sitting is like trying to drink a bowl of diamonds. What’s inside is all so shiny & clear & even tiny... [continued in Reviews below]”—Ron Silliman, blog

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

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. A reader’s companion is available at

A reader’s companion is available at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Trying to read a book by Rae Armantrout in a single sitting is like trying to drink a bowl of diamonds. What’s inside is all so shiny & clear & even tiny that it appears perfectly do-able. But the stones are so hard & their edges so chiseled that the instant you begin they’ll start to rip your insides apart.”—Ron Silliman, blog

“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

“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

Praise for Next Life: “Poetry that conveys the invention, the wit and the force of a mind that contests all assumptions.”—New York Times

“Always smart, given to sardonic humor, and surprisingly down-to-earth…”—Publishers Weekly

From the Book:

while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.

If we’re not copying it,
we’re lonely.

Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?

Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.

If we’re not killing it,
we’re hungry.

—from “Simple”


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2010)
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award (2009)
National Book Award Finalist 2009

Author Photo

RAE ARMANTROUT is a professor of writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of ten books of poetry.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Sat, 20 Oct 2018 15:27:43 -0500