Legault offers a dynamically charged vision of the real as he perceives its volatile, constantly shifting valences.
Ann Lauterbach, the highly esteemed poet who selected Paul Legault's manuscript for the Omnidawn Poetry Prize, explains that in these poems, “History is here, in uneasy tangents; landscape is here, lonely in its names; luminous images are here but they are not pictures; music is here in a spare, phrasal pacing… Here, in The Madeleine Poems, modernity's abandonment becomes a bare harbor into which sail vessels carrying unexpected cargo.” In hauntingly beautiful lyricism, and with a lightness that conveys the most weighty of subjects, Legault offers a dynamically charged vision of the real as he perceives its volatile, constantly shifting valences.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Into the restless profusion of contemporary poetics comes a new figure, Madeleine. She comes in a series of meditations and invocations, and seems somehow shielded from the brute violence and exposure that pervades our lives. “There must be a common/thing to strive for / as for a system / of limits.” History is here, in uneasy tangents; landscape is here, lonely in its names; luminous images are here but they are not pictures; music is here in a spare, phrasal pacing. George Oppen wrote “we abandon one another.” Here, in The Madeleine Poems, modernity's abandonment becomes a bare harbor into which sail vessels carrying unexpected cargo: “Then there was no body but a garment. / Then you are naked in the day's corridors. / I am a tassel. Do / beware me.” One imagines a crowd on the shore, welcoming Paul Legault's beautiful fleet of poems.”—Ann Lauterbach, judge of the 2009 Omnidawn 1st/2nd Poetry Book Prize
“THE MADELEINE POEMS is a book I have long been looking for. “Madeleine” is a voice and a vision which gracefully announces the world. As one of the poems says, “It shows it forth… this / wide menagerie of things and of pictures / and of pictures of things.” Pictures which include “the cordage of the Susquehanna,” and the brave world, not new, but newly brave, evoked by a poet's language of amazement. If making poetry is an ultimate proof of the humanity of the maker, then Paul Legault's invitation is for us all to, not listen to these poems, but to be them—to truly enact them.”—Bin Ramke
“Proust may have had his memorable madeleine, but it doesn't hold a candle to the remarkable, shape-shifting title figure of Paul Legault's superb debut collection, The Madeleine Poems. You've heard it here first: this is one of the most exciting, mysterious, alarming, and compelling collections you will read this year.”—David St. John
From the Book:
Open The Book of Take and leave
open the book of your arrival.
Call me the Madonna of chosen things.
Know I am righteous and moth-like.
Wash me or tear me; knead me in lye;
know then that I will outlast you.
That it was hot,
the houses burnt down;
the way of fire even in spring then.
Woodsnail, breathe for me,
or beware of your life
which I will take and shudder just to hold it.
Everyone was rich.
We hunted wild animals.
The worst was when they looked at you.
PAUL LEGAULT was born in Ontario and raised in Tennessee. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia and a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California. His poems have been published in Denver Quarterly, FIELD, Pleiades, and other journals. He is the co-editor of the translation journal Telephone. Currently, he is working on an English-to-English translation of the complete works of Emily Dickinson, part of which has been published as a chapbook, The Emily Dickinson Reader, vol. 1 (Try and Make, 2009). Paul lives with his husband, Orion Jenkins, in Brooklyn, NY where he works at the Academy of American Poets.