This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching The Outer Wards, by Sadiqa de Meijer, whom Michael Crummey calls "A voice of authority and grace."
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
The Outer Wards is a collection that revolves around a speaker who has fallen ill while her child is young; the resulting poems are a concentrated exploration of questions that all parents are aware of at the edges of their experience.
Describe your ideal reader.
One of the beautiful things about writing is that this isn't predictable—I love it when I hear from an unexpected reader that my work resonated with them.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
Although a wide range of poets influence my work, the literary godmothers of this project were Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop. I worked with the tension between a soniclally driven, confessional voice, and one of reticence and detailed observation. Eventually I realized that there was also a biographical kinship between the two poets and the book: with Plath in the disruption of her own motherhood by mental illness, and with Bishop in losing her mother to an institution when she was young.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
I was drawn to writing poems in direct address to their supposedly inanimate or immaterial subject: to death, to a mountain, to a country, to the world. That assumption of a speaking and listening relationship between things is something I want to keep exploring in my work.
An important part of any book launch is the thank you's. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
Much love and thanks to the Villanelles: Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang, Ashley-Elizabeth Best, Kirsteen MacLeod, Susan Olding, and Nancy Jo Cullen.
What are you reading right now or next?
Very happily, I have Canisia Lubrin's The Dyzgraphxst waiting for me.
The Outer Wards, Sadiqa de Meijer’s new collection, explores questions of maternal love and duty—and the powerlessness that comes with the disruption of that role through illness. “I was awake. / The hour was wrong,” de Meijer writes, and her poems track, in visceral and tender detail, the distraction, exhaustion, exhilaration, and fear of child-rearing through crisis. For de Meijer, the experience was also a crisis of language, and the struggle to find new terms for her state. Addressed, in part, to a child she calls “my grievous spectacle, / my dearest unpossessable,” The Outer Wards is everywhere marked by a joy in words—their quick-fire turns, sumptuous sounds, and nursery-rhyme seductions.
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