Synopses & Reviews
But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise emerges at a time when science is discovering more and more about the mystical particles that make up our universe and our bodies. From tidal forces and prairie burns to ruminations on racial identity while standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore, these poems chart a travelogue through mental and physical landscapes and suggest that place, time, love, and bodies are all shifts in the “undulate cosmos.” Straddling the lyrical and experimental, these poems conjure and connect the cosmological, the carnal, and the personal in a country—and a universe—that is gobbling itself into oblivion. But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise is in love with the universe of language—its forms, its sounds, and even its static.
“Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise is an offering to those of us for whom normalcy is the constant shift between a sense of location and dislocation. The shrewdness of these poems accumulates into a critique of our American desires and failures. The precision of Bertram’s lyrical and agile language is born out of the specificity of her gaze on what subliminally feels like a road trip through the towns that make up this country. These unforgettable poems awaken images so masterfully that reading and seeing become one thing: ‘We are claimed by middle country/where the river is cooked to steam in the factory belly/& every quivering shadow is missing its father.’ This award winning collection is an American portrait in which the poems are themselves, in Bertram’s words, ‘the elliptical mystery or the grief that walks different on everyone…’ It’s exhilarating to read poetry that pushes reading into the realm of experience. “—Claudia Rankine, Final Judge, 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award
“What’s a storm doing in Paradise to begin with? I blame the Poet. And why’s it blowing this way? I blame Bertram. Radiowoman’s got ‘jukebox growth’ up and down the dial, hitting frequencies high and low. What’s that you say, Barking Dog? ‘Inferior & menstrus’? Ha. Storm blowing this way is a book of smart songs that part the curtains of Paradise. Storm blowing this way, hip to brain, is a poet you’ll be reading for years. ‘O thuggish awakening’? Bring it on.”—Steve Davenport, author of Uncontainable Noise
“The promise to ‘learn/ more about the cosmos then apply/ that knowledge to the arts’ could serve well as a maxim for these brilliant, adventuresome poems. Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is charting a wonderful new path through contemporary poetry. Touched but never bound by singular doctrines of narrative, lyric or experiment, her poems merge linguistic zeal with capacious imagination. But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise is a trailblazing debut, and Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is not simply a poet to watch, she is a poet to follow.”—Terrance Hayes
About the Author
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram has been a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship winner, a Cave Canem fellow, and a writer-in-residence at the Montana Artists’ Refuge. Her poetry has appeared in the Harvard Review, the Mid-American Review, the Indiana Review, and other journals. She received second place in Narrative Magazine’s poetry contest and has won Gulf Coast Magazine’s Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. Bertram is a graduate of the writing programs at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently a Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow at Williams College. Her first book, But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise, won Red Hen Press’s 2010 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, judged by Claudia Rankine.