Synopses & Reviews
Precise, taut, minimalist poems are Toliver's Yellow Wallpaper
, using the thud and drone of language to evoke the suffocation of a marriage gone sour, sound bouncing back, and creating patterns that are an inhibiting force in themselves. There's a pulse to her work, one that harnesses the energy on the page to transcend binaries and boundaries of the self.
Tepid blow cools the liquid to hunch and wind. A box
arrives and loaded spills order across the Jloor. Living room,
dining room, room of tinder and kindling. The joints grind
to aspirin under the whitest application. At night I place oil
over all the door hooks to make for swifter leaving.
Kerosene opening, I saw it coming and took Jlight.
"Testing the bounds of relationships and identity, Toliver displays her linguistic gifts in poems that resist egotism and startle with their intimacy." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Like hands running over a strange surface in a dark room, the language of Ashley Toliver's mesmerizing debut collection, Spectra, is constantly searching — the phrases, logics, and images coalescing only to disperse and transmogrify: 'I say to the dark / look / everything is turning / into everything else / moth shuttled inside / an empty glass / paper slid over the mouth.' In 'Housekeeping, ' the linked series of prose poems that run through the first half of the book, the poems take on a dioramic quality, tableaux vivants marrying the domestic interiors of a life with the natural world. Toliver's innovative, open forms and imploring phrases accommodate the linked intricacies of mothering and loss. While reading Spectra I was reminded that feeling one's way through the unknown can itself become a kind of unparalleled knowing." Claudia Rankine
"Here is a book full of careful attention to what has been called the natural world, how it begins in the poet's own body, ravels into a house, a marriage, and extends out into the continents. Like those of Bishop's mapmakers, Ashley Toliver's colors are 'more delicate than the historians.' They are also certain, meticulous, and — it must be said — just absolutely beautiful. Reading Spectra makes me feel like Toliver has stitched a new constellation into my mind; she has written that much dark, that much light." Heather Christle, author of Heliopause
About the Author
Ashley Toliver is the author of the chapbook Ideal Machine. Her work has been supported by fellowships from Oregon Literary Arts, Cave Canem, and the Academy of American Poets. She received her MFA from Brown University in 2013.