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At the heart of this unusually accomplished and affecting first book of poetry is the idea of the hinge—the point of connection, of openings and closings. Maggie Dietz situates herself in the liminal present, bringing together past and future, dream and waking, death and life. Formally exact, rigorous, and tough, these poems accept no easy answers or equations.
Dietz creates a world alive with detail and populated with the everyday and strange: amusement-park horses named Virgil and Sisyphus, squirrels hanging over tree branches “like fish.” By turns humorous and pained, direct and mysterious, elegiac and elegant, the poems trace for us the journey and persistence of the spirit toward and through its “perennial fall”—both the season and the human condition. Cumulatively, the work moves toward a fragile transcendence, surrendering to difficulty, splendor, and strangeness.
“In Perennial Fall, distinct, hard-edged images create a haunting counter-play of distortion, troubled insight or menace. The simultaneous clarity and shadow has the quality of a dream that can be neither forgotten nor settled. This is a spectacular debut and more than that—a wonderful book.”—Robert Pinsky
About the Author
Maggie Dietz is the author of Perennial Fall, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and coeditor of Americans’ Favorite Poems, Poems to Read, and An Invitation to Poetry. She teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“In Perennial Fall, distinct, hard-edged images create a haunting counter-play of distortion, troubled insight or menace. The simultaneous clarity and shadow has the quality of a dream that can be neither forgotten nor settled. The disturbed speaker of the final, audacious dramatic monologue articulates in its most extreme form Maggie Dietz’s sense of the uncanny forces under life’s surface. Her achievement—and the source of excitement for her readers—is an urgent fidelity to both that surface and the underlying caves and rivers of the imagination."
— Robert Pinsky
“Graced with a subtlety of vision and formal versatility that bring Bishop and Bogan quickly to mind, Maggie Dietz’s Perennial Fall both embodies and enacts the trajectory from being haunted by loss, to accepting the fact of it, to refusing a life that doesn’t include ‘dusk, dying, [and] ends.’ ‘I love/this world, my heart is/here, where a body breathes,’ says Dietz, reluctant to know an afterlife where there’s ‘Nothing to tend,/nothing you're up against.’ Dietz speaks with the hard-won authority of one ‘who's lost, who’s lost someone’ and has learned that to love and suffer is to have lived fully, and with eyes wide open. These poems are the stirring record of such a life, and the welcome announcement of a masterful new voice in American poetry.”
— Carl Phillips
“Perennial Fall is a first book of unusual delicacy and precision of feeling, and masterful economy, even starkness of presentation. I admire the poise in these lines, which is a moral and psychological balance, charged with ambiguity, ripe for disturbance. The human beings in Dietz’s poems have a participatory relation to the nature that surrounds them, and human nature in her world is brave and permeable: ‘Among the welcome elements not one/thing did not hunger to be changed.’ These poems are, themselves, welcome elements in a crowded and noisy world.”
— Rosanna Warren
"[Maggie Dietz]'s got plenty of attitude, as well as skill to back it up....[Her] lippy candor is invigorating in a wish-I'd-thought-of-that way, and it's a pleasure to be led through her world as she looks at familiar subjects with fresh eyes....Intimate, idiomatic and thoroughly original."
— David Kirby
"Dietz's poems evoke the elemental, organic connections layered beneath the surface of experience in nature and in dreams."
— J.H. Keith
"Once you are invited in, it is difficult to walk out unchanged, to ignore the sense that this fall to which Dietz refers is not simply seasonal, but also a commentary on humanity--its loves, its losses, its own perpetual waiting."
— Aimee Pozorski