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“Possessed of a fine nervousness, these poems can't sit still. They cross and uncross their legs. They drum on the table with their red nails. They glitter and they ache. The energy of Isolato is intensely female, and Ms. Szporluk wonderfully unpredictable. I loved this book.”—Lola Haskins

“Something of the philologist invests these passages with linguistic trouble and gives to their cool surfaces a suggestion of considerable subterranean fire. One is grateful both for the threat of that real heat and for the uncommon chance to take pleasure in it.”—Scott Cairns, author of Recovered Body

“Following up the debut Dark Sky Question, Szporluk puts the self's biological, sexual, oneiric and psychological discourses through a number of sinuous paces…Readers who imagine a much, much stranger Louise Glück will have some way toward seeing Szporluk's compelling, fluid methods and preoccupations.”—Publishers Weekly

“Consistently unpredictable, dazzlingly unconventional, Isolato goes further toward establishing Szporluk as one of the most individual and resonant voices among the new poets now emerging.”—ForeWord

The short lyric poems in Larissa Szporluk's new collection, Isolato, search for meaning and beauty—for poetry—in an unpredictable and incomprehensible world. Their voices break from the contemporary preoccupation with autobiography, held together by language rather than a sustained narrative or plot. Yet the narrative fragments clearly evoke certain themes and moods: interaction of and struggle between the human and natural world; violence, particularly against women and children; alienation and betrayal; the mysteries of the universe, God, and death; and, of course, poetry itself.

Variously called a religious, a metaphysical, or a visionary poet, Szporluk has been compared to Emily Dickinson and George Herbert as well as to twentieth-century poets like Sylvia Plath, Mark Strand, and Louise Glück. Her work is concise, experimental, and challenging. Language and syntax are often elusive, the logic that of dreams or music, the imagery mysterious.

The poems, once read, are not easily dismissed. Like the poet's “Deer Crossing the Sea,”readers find “the promise of nectar / haunts them forever, the shore pecked out / of their eyes, and there, in its stead, / something greater to catch, / a scent that would paralyze God.”


Hatch No. 2

Can't see a thing for the snow,
its rabid, haywire blowing,
something bigger than us
on a binge, plucking, skinning,
boning, the lie in my heart,
two wrongs make a right,
a parachute never unfolding.
Can't see my ex in his bright
existence, new live-in woman,
new business. See only
paths to a fairy tale castle,
a kiss after too much sleep.
See only late orange light
emanate up from old corn,
the way it covered your hands
as they caught it on film,
catch-as-catch-can. Good luck
in your loving endeavors, good
luck and godspeed. Forget
it was ours, kicking in water,
alive but unborn; forget I was
young in the brush-fire heat
and couldn't have known
it would bore through my shell
like a worm. See only Psyche
sort mountains of grain
with swift ant assistants.
Hear this one little chicken
talk about falling, but pay it
no heed. It hasn't come out yet.
It won't feel a thing.


When there is no more life,
step outside. Peel away the human.

If the sky can't keep an opening,
be the opening

that ushers in the dark
that masquerades the nothingness

with arteries of color,
that swell and swerve of nervous

wrecks, their kamikaze
shadows. Be that symbol

of the lost but well-fought war,
the bandage on the side effect,

not the real sore, of thousand-mile
bitternesses crossed by geese

against the odds of snow
until what binds them to repeat

themselves dissolves,
muscles, wings, and throats

twisting like grotesques
of ice, their inner water, in a flux,

indentured to the half
they didn't know, like galaxies,

accessories, before the fact,
drawn into the power of a hole.