poems by Heather Altfeld
Winner of The 2019 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Eric Pankey
paper / 100 pp. / $16.00
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
ABOUT THE BOOK
Spanning ages and species and cultures, Heather Altfeld's Post-Mortem pays tribute to the passing glory of this planet and all that our hands have made. These often long-form, expansive poems take many shapes and modes, including prose poem sequences, sestinas, kaddishes, and obituaries. No matter the form it inhabits, however, Altfeld's voice is unmistakable and one-of-a-kind. Whether considering mythical creatures, historical lives, or contemporary culture, Altfeld's poems are hilarious and deeply moving, somehow, at the same time.
Heather Altfeld and others of her inquisitive ilk lead the interrogation of a mad world.
[Altfeld] is able to create for us a complex longing for the world we love, even as it vanishes.
—Meryl Natchez, Zyzzyva
An extended meditation on language, an atlas of the visible and the invisible, as well as a memorial book to all that is lost and will be lost to us, Post-Mortem is a brilliant, baroque, and word-crazed collection of poems. While the primary mode of the poems is elegiac (many taking as their forms obituaries, autopsies, and kaddishes), one cannot help but delight in Altfeld’s reverie and in the breadth and depth of her inquiry, her exploration, her katabasis as she leads us like Virgil through a stunning and elaborate posthumous world.
—Eric Pankey, judge of The 2019 Orison Poetry Prize
The poems in Post-Mortem take on the weightiest subjects—the deaths of everything from the first-born of Egypt to no-longer-spoken languages to silence to the planet Earth—with an impressive mix of lyricism (“that wail of loss, the true noise of god, / holiness rising over the dunes”), intelligence (“Protons, electrons, neutrons, / all in an invisible symmetric vaudeville”), and humor (“Who are we kidding? / Our lives are the size of gnats”). “Now even the dead can hear us thinking” ends “Obituary for Silence,” and, given the distinctiveness and power of Heather Altfeld’s audible thinking in Post-Mortem, I find myself half believing that she’s right.
"Listen, little ghost. Don't be confused. / You are not haunting anyone yet" writes Heather Altfeld in this most fun morbid book I have seen in a while, a book that is filled with beautiful obituaries to things as different as snow and elves and silence, and planet Earth itself. Make no mistake, reader, you will love it when "Pliny's Traveling Apothecary" stops in a town near you. You will love it, too, when you hear the "Broadcast from the Sarcophagus." Rarely has there been a book about death so filled with life. Among the many elegies, dirges, and songs of this book, one thing is constant—the inability to stop seeing the wail of loss, and yet also the inability to stop seeking harmony. This tension, this duality, is what makes the book sing. I love it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heather Altfeld is the author of The Disappearing Theatre, which won the 2016 Poets at Work Prize, selected by Stephen Dunn. She is the 2017 recipient of the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America and the 2015 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Conjunctions, Orion, Aeon, Narrative Magazine, The Georgia Review, ZYZZYVA, and Best American Essays. She lives in Northern California, where she teaches in the Comparative Religion and Humanities Department and the University Honors Program at California State University, Chico.