Surge, the debut poetry collection from Michelle Whittaker ruminates on how specific memories survive over a lifespan. Through haunting recollections with a powerful momentum, the poems recall vividly a suddenness of the uncontrollable physical and psychological disturbances as seen through loss and recovery. The lyrical narrative threads in Surge explore conversations between authority and disillusionment of human nature; while asking what we as humans might learn about how to heal - from the ecology of nature or other species.
PRAISE FOR SURGE
In the wondrous poems of Michelle Whittaker, "the tired self slipknots a song for her own self to sleep." Even as her language loops into lullabies, swells and spells, it casts a blue and uneasy shadow. Even when she meditates on art or mortality, she dazzles with a turn of phrase and explosive imagery. Even when adrift on the music and mystery of dreams, Surge is fueled by feeling. Warmth and compassion power this amazing debut.
I just started Michelle Whittaker’s Surge, and I can’t render how much, for how long, I’ve needed those poems; the landscape is truly not ready, but it better hurry up!
—Arika Foeman, Cave Canem interview
Until Michelle Whittaker came along, remipedes were “poison-happy” crustaceans, not metaphors for the poet’s art, not “beseechers” with fangs. Thus debutsa voice like no other and an imagination that feeds on paradox. The unbowed spirit magnifies the broken, mortal body. Cruelty and love pack into the same exoskeleton, male and female they pack. We do unspeakable things to each other, yet we create sumptuous havens, music, art, mirrors formerly known as literature, out of our “Goddamn Fire.” We are in danger. Surge just might save us, even as we drown.
—Julie Sheehan, author of "Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise"
Michelle Whittaker sounds like no other poet I know: there is a wildness in her work, a strange singing from an unfamiliar depth, built of arresting imagery and turns of phrase that bend the mind. The scope of her vision is wide, as she interrogates love, the body and mortality, art, the "self" and its mutability and recesses. Whittaker's is a poetics that affirms life as much as it questions it, "consol[ing] the yes" we have no choice but to offer experience, even in darkness, even at "the edge of almost."Surge is a startling debut from a unique and mysterious poet.
—Charif Shanahan, author of "Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing"
Michelle Whittaker's Surge is a rumination on home, body, memory, wind, what it is to be hunted and haunted. In "A Partial Cento of Visual Light," Whittaker writes, I could have done a Joan of Arc/as the last breath lodged in a man’s throat. This may be the moment you start gasping. Begin storing up your oxygen; Whittaker's poems will leave you breathless.
—Aimee Herman, author of "meant to wake up feeling"
Michelle Whittaker is a poet and musician. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker,Southampton Review, Narrative,Vinyl, Transitions Magazine, Long Island Quarterly, and other publications. She was awarded a Jody Donohue Poetry Prize, NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, and Cave Canem Fellowship. She is an Assistant Professor in the Program of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University.
Michelle Whittaker, Surge
Publication date July 1st 2017
Cover artist: Dawn Lee
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