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Ritual and Bit
Robert Ostrom

2016 • 88 pp. 5 1/2 x 7 1/2"

$16.00 Paperback, 978-0-9962206-4-4

“‘Trust me, says what you are about to read to your beautiful ear.’ And I do, I trust these quiet poems of deep loss as they spiral their way in and hold my attention, as they meander the strange stream of their own making, and arrive at that wonderful old unnameable place, poetry’s heart.”—Mary Ruefle, judge

Winner of the 2015 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, selected by Mary Ruefle

The landscape of Ritual and Bit is littered with the speaker’s past: empty 40s, old posters, family lies, and fragmented missives. Internal struggles play out in the detritus of long-ago. Yet even as the speaker attempts to cautiously map his movements, effect a survival, and navigate beyond his past, he faces emotional fissures wrought by the present. Throughout the book, he restlessly searches for ways to regain control of his life, partly through ceremonies, prayers, and devotions, and partly through lyrical force. The danger is palpable among wolves and claws, boxcutter and jackknife. There’s both caution here and a willingness to abandon caution if anything or anyone could be reached. The poems ask, What makes a home? What should we expect when we are so determined to live in a world where everything is disappearing?

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Reviews / Endorsements

“You're there immediately: nirvana, crystal lucidity, light, joy, it catches you, ozone. It is as if you're walking in the woods and find a spring, almost invisible, almost unnoticeable, and you sense the water there is the beginning of the world that once was the entire Nile. How is it possible that some words carry this strange authority of the future? Because they found a new access to memory? You're thrilled, they lead you, the sense you're after a big discovery doesn't leave you.”—Tomaž Šalamun

“Robert Ostrom's poems arise—indeed, they could not have arisen otherwise—from an unwavering commitment not only to seeing the world, but also to the possibilities inherent in, and the ramifications of, seeing the world. Every seen thing must be invented by the seer if it is to be interacted with in any way other than instinctively. However, just as we are not often aware that we are re-constructing our memories every time we remember something, so also are we not often aware of this process. Ostrom writes from an awareness of the process—"And like that / we will be leaves. And like that, there were trees."--and his poems live, because they are at every moment making.”—Shane McCrae

From the Book:

Approach and the little ones
run the way one runs to escape
rain. My neighbor's house
is on fire, you imagine your
neighbor saying. Suddenly
it occurs to you that, like
shortcomings, blistering grows
more permanent as the body
gets used to it. As luck
would have it, this day waited
patiently. Do you think the sight
of flies picking themselves up
means persevere? At her
book club, your wife recalls
her dream and there is nothing
you can do about it. Above her
hangs a chandelier. The kids
come home early. And no one
love chandeliers more than I do.

ROBERT OSTROM is the author of The Youngest Butcher in Illinois (2012). He teaches at New York City College of Technology and Columbia University, and lives in Ridgewood, New York.

Sun, 12 Aug 2018 14:01:39 -0500