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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-06-02
  • Publisher: Knopf
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The "exquisite and haunting" (Booklist) collection of poems built around the language and mystique of American captivity narratives in which Sheck enters the vivid life we live inside our own minds and selves, and takes us into the mysterious underside of consciousness and selfhood.

Author Biography

Laurie Sheck is the author of four previous books of poetry, including Black Series and The Willow Grove, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work appears widely in such journals as The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Verse, and Boston Review. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, Sheck has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and is a 2006–7 Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She teaches in the MFA Program at the New School and lives in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.


The First Remove

The others hiding away when they took her.
Eventually I learned other words. Assere for knives. Toras: North. Satewa: alone.
Always a breakdown of systems that will not be restored.
Something cuts itself in me. It’s not a question of refusal.
Esteronde: to rain. Tesenochte: I do not know.
The shattered of, and then the narrowness opening where the vanished touches it–
Then how the mind recombines and overthrows–

The Fourth Remove

The way sunlight amends
The eyes, too, grow practiced in unsteadiness and fracture.
I write this to you on air as I walk, but I think now all summary is betrayal.
I picture your hands lifting a fork or folding cloth, while at the same time
I’m thinking,it was believed if their cornfields were cut down they would starve and die with hunger,
Andwas missing fromandcould learn no tidings. . . Andthey who have taken me

Were driven from the little they had . . . he fetched me some water and told me
I could wash.All these so braided, where hurt is building nimbly.
I feel a pleasure ofnever containedsweep over me, now that I know place is never
Clear or wholly settled, not even the veins on the underside of a leaf, its freedoms.
Crossing is a hard simple. The feet register the merest intervals and shifts;
All that is tracked is also otherwise and hidden.

And water lies plainly

Then I came to an edge of very calm
But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicate
Inlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off
And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it was
Though it spoke to me most kindly,
Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling.

Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning.
The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skins
Without their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know
How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its head
Into the blue and so unfold there?

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Captivity: Poems by Laurie Sheck
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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