Finalist: 2013 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
In her first book, Chord Box, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers envisions a world where each place is best known by its sound. Weaving complex junctions between music, speech, the body, and sexuality, these poems trace the arc of adolescence and early adulthood, rooting themselves in gritty landscapes of the South and Appalachia, China and its borderlands. Part narrative and part lyric, Rogers’s poems make use of the whole field of the page, assembling an innovative poetic vocabulary that includes word, character, and symbol. By calling on figures from the recent as well as the distant past, this coming-of-age collection asks us to consider history, both personal and political. Whether struggling to make vibrato on the guitar or stringing together her first sentences in Mandarin, the speaker of these poems assumes the role of the eager student, edging her way toward an understanding with both fierceness and a sense of humility. Chord Box is exquisitely crafted and rich with feeling, a dazzling debut collection.
“The exquisite structures and beautifully realized harmonies of Chord Box belie the notion of ‘first book.’ Music—its seduction and discipline—is at the heart of these poems that are themselves gorgeous with sound—their lines turned and tuned with such care they seem incised rather than written. The erotics of knowledge evolve in a powerful coming-of-age sequence that is also the biography of an education. The moral shadings are subtle, the story fragmented yet legible as power relationships—illicit passions, unsanctioned devotions—gradually unfold. Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers taught in rural China, and her poems that draw upon the experience brilliantly interrogate assumptions and press the grounds of understanding. The struggle to learn a language—whether Chinese, English, or music—becomes a means of voicing the charged territory between solitude and community, distance and proximity. These elegant poems also are tough-minded and edgy: ponticello, played near the bridge, a position that yields ‘the rawest sound / on stringed instruments.’ Both sensual and cerebral, Chord Box oscillates with gravitas and light: an indelible debut.”
—Alice Fulton, author of Felt and Sensual Math
“A stunning first book by a remarkably mature young poet, Chord Box deftly foregrounds both the language of sound and the sounds of language. The first sequence, weaving the often conflicted experiences of a guitar student and her teacher, uses the language of music to explore, through synaesthetic metaphor and other tropes, emotional and bodily territory. The final sequence takes the poet to China, where the sounds of a new language, as well as its visual representation, move her ever more deeply into emotional and linguistic complexities of equivalence, dissonance, and cadenced resolution.”
—Martha Collins, author of White Papers and Blue Front
“Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers draws her readers in, deftly and carefully, to embark on a journey of discoveries. Music is often her subject, and music constitutes her method: the music of storytelling, of pain and joy, of continual discovery and insight. With a sureness of touch and an economy of means, she gifts us, again and again, with stunning poems. This is a truly remarkable first collection.”
—David Young, author of Field of Light and Shadow and Black Lab
Adopted at: Oberlin College
Course: CRWR 201 Poetry and Prose Workshop
Course Description: A gateway course for the creative writing major. In this workshop course we will focus on student writing and we will be studying a number of authors, including Oberlin alumni Elizabeth Rogers, Lauren Clark and Adam Gianelli, who will be visiting campus later in the spring.
Professor: Kazim Ali
Term: Fall 2018