Winner of the 2011 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
Danielle Cadena Deulen’s debut collection, Lovely Asunder, is filled with beautiful dangers. These poems, sharp and graceful, brutal and vulnerable, create from language a kind of chiaroscuro-both light and dark made more vivid by their juxtaposition. Throughout the collection, the poet appraises ancient myths through a feminine and feminist perspective, evincing the ways in which narratives transform personal experience and vice versa. The figure of the fruit, in all its implied and literal lushness, recurs like a chorus, and the speakers of these poems are haunted by the Fall-confined by the body, the mind, and the irrevocable past. Yet there is a certain abundance to Deulen’s style that keeps darkness or mere cynicism from overwhelming-a distinctly maximalist aesthetic that echoes the lost paradisal opulence for which the speakers of the poems yearn. Worldly but never mundane, this collection exists in the boundary between the physical and metaphysical, revering both.
“Lovely Asunder brims with poems of intense lyric beauty, confronting the dark wealth of the human heart. ‘How do we know, without words / to say it, that you are the summation of a lifetime / of desire?’ Deulen asks in the poem ‘Interrogation’—we can begin to know by reading this book.”
—Dana Levin, author of Wedding Day and In the Surgical Theatre
“Lovely Asunder delves into the grave depths of desire. Bristling with passion, fierce in their self-scrutiny, these exquisite poems tightrope between the intimate and the metaphysical. At once lovely—beautiful, harmonious, inspiring—and asunder—broken, fragmented, distinct—the poems embody paradox with their elaborate and baroque music and their austere and harrowing vision. ‘Lord,’ a speaker asks in the poem ‘Hearth,’ ‘save me from the ordinary world.’ The poet saves us from the ordinary at every turn with her extraordinary juxtapositions, with her uncanny images, and with her breathtaking ability to see from original and oblique angles the world afresh in all its seductive strangeness.”
—Eric Pankey, author of The Pear as One Example: New and Selected Poems
“At one point in her riveting new collection Deulen promises to ‘go / further inland, like a lenient / hurricane.’ I’d say she’s more of a lyric hurricane; wreaking exquisite havoc on an imperfect world, she has the power to excavate the ‘sound / we are born hearing, and so don’t hear.’ Often, she faces pain head-on, like the songbird in these two of the book’s many memorable lines: ‘A goldfinch flies into briars, gets stuck / It quivers in there—little glint of light.”
—Jacqueline Osherow, author of The Hoopoe’s Crown