poems by Carly Joy Miller
Winner of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips
Foreword by Ilya Kaminsky
paper / $16.00
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Publication Date: May 1, 2018
ABOUT THE BOOK
In her debut poetry collection, Carly Joy Miller surprises and enraptures on every page. The visceral poems of Ceremonial figure the body at its most sublime and at its most feral, with equal attention. With an unflinching eye, Miller crafts psalms of petition and praise from the raw material of life.
PRAISE FOR CEREMONIAL
In her luscious debut, […] [Miller] conjures powerful images of refusal to be confined by societal expectations of womanhood. On display is an inner life marked by the active embrace of both victories and defeats garnered in the face of defiance of others’ demands. […] In the process of discovering the self, Miller cuts a new path through an old wood.
[A]n exciting and utterly original debut book of poems.
Miller’s book is a strange testament, teeming with some of the most original poems you’ll encounter this year. […] Metamorphoses saturate this book, suggest our bodies and souls are in flux. There’s a lot of wonder to get lost within here; this is a book to awaken the imagination.
Reading [Miller], I felt the kind of relief that comes from confessing a long-held secret to a new friend, one who understands.
–Corinne Segal, Lit Hub
Carly Joy Miller is relentless. She doesn’t want you to breathe normally.
Ceremonial is a feast where human made beasts made spirits come to cavort. Everything is a verb—nothing stands still in this document of strangeness and healing. One can only surrender to the raw power of Miller’s music.
–Logan February, Wildness
The current of language swept me up and carried me with seductive grace. I found myself rereading phrases, sentences, and entire poems, eager to experience again how the words were strung together. This fluid linguistic elegance seems counterintuitive, as there is something unbridled at the heart of these poems. They are peopled with spitfire girls in tune with the wilderness of their surroundings. There’s an edgy magic to these characters and these verses, a fable-like quality that still captures the moxie and fire that simmers underneath female coming-of-age.
–Lauren Kane, the Paris Review blog
[F]or all their terrifying intensity, their clear and valid claim to the land of spiritual wrestling, [these] are also poems that delight. […] [A] deep, dark, glorious book.
–Maggie Blake Bailey, the Poetry International blog
Miller is not afraid. She molds the human condition with myth and magic. […] Love is a fable, she tells us, and she translates that into stunningly original poetry.
–Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books
The poems of Ceremonial disturb in such a way as to make us entirely rethink who we are, and where. Ceremonial offers a post-apocalyptic landscape to be navigated by poems that together become a moral compass—the compass Protean, however, ever-shifting, maybe trustworthy, and maybe not. Here, to bless a thing can mean to put an axe to it; the impulse to save what’s broken competes with an impulse to look indifferently away from it; the topography is one of damage—accident or what only looks, or is meant to look, like accident. And yet there is tenderness, too, and vulnerability. The poems variously revel in, regret, and feel strange compassion for the beast of desire—of restlessness—inside us all: “Still I kiss / his jaw wild with yellow // jackets. I shepherd / too long in his furs.” Part of the power of these poems is the coolness of their sensibility, a refusal to back entirely down: “Don’t blink in disbelief,” we’re told at one point, “Kill from the chandelier with a pearl strand. Swing the lights.” I stand persuaded.
–Carl Phillips, judge of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize
Carly Joy Miller’s poems are wild, restless creatures. They scare me in the best way, balancing between pleasure and pain, and brokenness and wholeness, with lyricism, intelligence, and disarming composure: “Nothing delights more / than his horns. // How they rouge me.” Reading Miller’s thrilling debut, Ceremonial, I’m reminded of what happens when something breaks: there’s a brightness, more facets to reflect the light.
Here is the poet who knows the sensual art of speaking in tongues. […] “To be young and lopsided in faith”—not a kind of prayer one would expect from the young poet in any age, nevermind 2018. And, yet, here it is, the surprise of discovery. The new voice which is instantly recognizable as that rarest of occurrences: the real thing.
–Ilya Kaminsky, from the foreword
Ceremonial: Heart of the Trottered Beast
Little elbow of pleasure
in the eating dress.
The animal needs room,
yet beautiful. I never
considered the cathedral
a body needing to break.
I laid the trottered down.
Pestle the eyes, opaque
in vision. As soon as
I take the cloth to clean
the sockets, the organs play
their last bright notes.
Terrible the sounds
Slice the gut. Dig
the ticking thing out:
Sacrament. Blood lyre.
I wipe my tongue of it.
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