Weapons Grade


Poems by Terese Svoboda
978-1-55728-906-3 (paper)
September 2009


Add to Cart

In her poetry Terese Svoboda walks out to the edge where language is made and destroyed. Her subject is human suffering. Called “disturbing, edgy and provocative” by Book Magazine, her work is often the surreal poetry of a nightmare yet is written with such wit, verve, and passion that she can address the direst subjects.

Weapons Grade is a collection of poems about the power of occupation—political and personal. They often play with sestina, sonnet, and couplets, as if only form can contain the fury of between the occupier and the occupied. There’s a pervading sense of dread, of expiation, of portents—even in potato salad. There’s also elegy and lullaby and seduction but, in the words of the sixties tune “Wooly Bully,” the reader must “Watch it now, watch it.” Highly poised, grand and intensely lyrical, the poems veer from the political to the personal, then finish on the elegiac, releasing complex and unexpected meaning with emotional precision. Looking directly into the contemporary apocalyptic, Weapons Grade, Svoboda’s fifth collection of poetry, draws readers back to the radiant present.

Terese Svoboda reads from Weapons Grade.

Terese Svoboda is the author of ten books of prose and poetry, most recently Black Glasses Like Clark Kent that won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. Her honors in poetry include the Iowa Poetry Prize and two prizes from the Poetry Society of America, the Lucille Medwick Award, and Cecil Hemley Award. She has also won an O. Henry Prize for the short story, the Bobst Prize for fiction, a Pushcart Prize for an essay, and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in translation. Her opera WET premiered at Los Angeles Disney Hall in 2005. Svoboda lives in New York City.

Author Website

“Svoboda has such range—of subject, of emotion (from whimsical play to chillingly dead serious)—that these poems take you on a wild ride, fast and dangerous, but always in control. This is a goddamn terrific book!”
—Thomas Lux, author of God Particles

Weapons Grade is both whistleblower and elegy, a tour de force in the expansive in-your-face tradition of Susan Griffin and Garry Trudeau. Svoboda is an indefatigably American writer of conscience and acuity—a documentarian and saboteur, satirist and sharp-tongued citizen, her poems dangerous and heartbreaking. “Forget the rockets’/red glare you so dearly love/and tear down that bright banner blood./We can’t be moths attracted by light/we must…chew at the fuse.” Svoboda does, indeed, chew the fuse–inexorably, lyrically, heroically.”
—Maureen Seaton, author of Venus Examines Her Breast

“‘Let the continent flex its bicep,/ a man built on steroids.’ This is Terese Svoboda’s grave view of America today, in her new collection Weapons Grade (the name of a grisly atrocity game), but she makes poems that laugh anyway! Here are awful blanks: “utility/ … not useful to them really,/ being dead already”; “I can’t read the papers, or/ your face on the phone.” Here are goofball diction and mad rhymes: “You/ will be furry and sleepy/ after I clear the clearing bête noir/ nette bois/ fête René Char.” Here is a zany typo: “Man walks into a bra.” Note this perfect domestic sketch: “her shoes are tied but.” (We never learn but what?!) Sweet- or sharp- tempered comedy empowers Svoboda to address the direst subjects in a prophetic and scary book full of hilarious noises.”
—Caroline Knox, author of Quaker Guns