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The Tatters
Brenda Coultas

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2014 • 68 pp. 6 x 9"

$22.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7419-0

$17.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7440-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Her broaching of modern topics—fracking, toy robots, texting photographs of a meal—gives a 21st-century feel to the collection, as does the use of hybrid forms … [T]he poet’s voice is unique and authentic.”Doris Lynch, Library Journal

An elegy for the end of a pristine natural world

In this nuanced and moving new collection of poems, Brenda Coultas weaves a meditation on contemporary life and our place in it. Coultas, who is known for her investigative documentary approach, turns her attention to landfills and the odd histories embedded in the materials found there. The poems make their home among urban and rural detritus, waste, trinkets, and found objects. The title poem, for example, takes its cue from the random, often perfect, pigeon feathers found on city streets. In a seamless weave of poetic sentences, The Tatters explores how our human processes of examination are often bound up with destruction. These poems enable us to be present with the sorrow and horror of our destructive nature, and to honor the natural world while acknowledging that this world no longer exists in any pure form, calling to us instead from cracks in the sidewalk, trash heaps, and old objects. Check for the online reader’s companion at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“These poems matter, not only because they are matter but because they are responsible.”
Timothy Liu, Coldfront

Brenda Coultas brings an informed sense of wonder to gobs of information passed over by the casual observer. Gathering facts and events she's witnessed or read about, relating tales overlooked or discarded amongst the mass of cultural information swirling in today's growing digital overload. Whether it's her neighborhood(s) or historical evidence she's sifting through, Coultas looks with a well-grounded eye at the street level, keeping things locally informed. Her poems (often in prose) represent the dissemination of this stored material.”James Patrick Dunagan, Bookslut

“Dedicated to poet, journalist, and activist Brad Will, a friend killed while filming a street battle in Mexico in 2006, Brenda Coultas’s [book], The Tatters, summons powers too seldom called upon these days. In the emotionally bereft wasteland of too much of the present US literary scene—with its overproduction, professionalism, back-scratching, and socially adept forms of networking and uncritical reception—the poetry of Coultas stands out like a lighthouse, welcoming all of us, lost at sea, to a world disappearing before our very eyes but still visible in her work.”Ammiel Alcalay, BOMB Magazine

“Coultas wants to push back against the shuttering of the natural world and the contemporaneous homogenization and toothlessness of how we communicate with one another. She wants to meet head-on the unwelcome but essential information that much of what we are now made of is runoff … These poems, cataloguing and owning and turning from and grappling with our vast trash, are trouble in the most useful sense of the word.”Natalie Shapero, Kenyon Review

“Coultas is a writer I would like to spend more time with. She reminds me that when poetry works, it can do so much, in such a small space.”Giles Goodland, Poetry Salzburg Review

“[T]hese six long poems study a spectrum of made things, troubling the line between the sentient and insentient in a language that is so precise as to suggest the forensic.”—Iris Crushing, Poetry Project Newsletter

“In this beautiful new book, Coultas gathers the debris of our living, sifting through the midden piles to uncover ‘the heat of the keystrokes,’ the made world at the center of the hornets' nest or the human anatomy book. She takes apart the animal-made machines to show us not only the tatters at the heart of living, but also the ‘full glory’ of our assemblages (objects and bodies). In this ethical testimony, occurring at the boundary between the remains and the living, she shows us the only thing that will keep us going: how to share this world.”—Eleni Sikelianos, author of The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead

The Tatters is a real achievement—a recognizable and complex texture of feeling accrues through an organization of ephemera and idiosyncratic self-assessments bound up completely with lived experience in a shared and difficult if constantly surprising world.”—Anselm Berrigan, author of Notes From Irrelevance

“Unlike most writers who are working in hybrid forms, Coultas creates a seamless enmeshment between poetry and prose, and this consistency of voice and tone is one of her great strengths. It’s her signature, really, a kind of magical occurrence where two things merge to become a third thing—something completely different.”—Lewis Warsh, author of A Place in the Sun and Inseparable

“Brenda Coultas’s supreme deftness at turning detritus into living aching contemporaneity takes on an additional register, here, every beautifully grounded line sounding, simultaneously, a kind of music of the spheres. From the firey innards of a blue stone (that is also the blue gaze of a doll), to the trailer that marks a burnt farmhouse, to the flaming eye of meth, to night’s turning blue planets, Brenda Coultas delivers from deep within her midden of detritus, a ‘city within the fire.’ Which is our city, our burnished insides, our tattered time + its dead objects tagged with the history of human hubris. Not a list but a story, kaleidoscopic embers, spinning into a world of incredible, deeply menaced, wonder.”—Gail Scott, author of The Obituary

From the Book:

My Tree

I found a pearl and wore it in my ear
Deep ocean echos sing like a seashell

A girl promised a purse filled with jewels, if I would be her friend Purses open secrets as priceless as pills in a jeweled box

Loose pearls, enough to imagine what a great loss that necklace was or was not

I like to see metal turn red and glow and to hear its hiss when it meets the water. Leather bellows, suspended from the ceiling, pump air into the fire. Long handled tongs and picks forge mostly nails. I open all the old purses. There might be change left in one.

I built you a tree of light to see by
To listen to digital libraries in your palm.
Renamed myself writing this book, renamed myself after building this tree

I burnt candles all night to grow these leaves.

I fed books to the flame, to make a blaze to read by
Mined libraries to power this tower of light

built sparkling branches
with flaming pages for leaves
dense as the weeping willow’s cascade of curls

On the mountain ridge my tree stands head and shoulders above
the hardwoods. Along the roadway wooden poles, bathed in chemicals, hold up a network of wire

I built a tree, more cell than sweeping pine or black walnut, as natural as pink pine needles or a silver mylar holiday tree. Glittery pine boughs glue-gunned on.

No needles on the floor
No forest smell

My gift is glittery and eternal
Even in synthetic shreds
dumped on a landlocked city sidewalk
it finds its way to the sea

BRENDA COULTAS is author of three books of poems: The Marvelous Bones of Time, A Handmade Museum, and Early Films. She teaches at Touro College and has served as faculty in Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, and she lives in New York City.

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

Sat, 20 Oct 2018 15:38:59 -0500