Author: Elizabeth Metzger
Publisher: Milkweed Editions (2023)
A devastating, vulnerable collection tracing high-risk pregnancy and new motherhood amid grief.
“All my life all I’ve wanted was to be myself / and someone else,” writes Elizabeth Metzger. From the shadowy perspective of confinement, where the presence of death unsettles all outcomes, these poems examine an expansion and fracturing of the self—into motherhood as well as childhood, into past selves and future unknowns. The child becomes parent, the parent becomes child, the child arrives but in doing so is lost. New loss haunts new life, and life becomes “one or two lives.” The door is more valuable than the prize behind it.
With ambivalence as well as deep feeling, Metzger wonders how a single body can be expected to hold both immense joy and immense mourning, profound longing and creeping numbness, when one so often overtakes the other. She plunges into the darkness inside—of the gloomy room, the inner body, the afterlife and the pre-language mind—and sends back “a searchlight across the underworld,” Eurydice in search of herself.
Aching and contemplative, Lying In is an exquisite portrait of an in-between time—and of the person who emerges on the other side. “Isn’t it obvious how we’ve changed?”
“Elizabeth Metzger’s Lying In is a book orbiting sacrifice, orbiting the way(s) one generation gives life then gives way to the next. She writes, ‘In wildfire ash / I teach our son the alphabet.’ A finger writes letters in the dust of dead trees—what is missing, what is gone, becomes language, literally becomes the shapes from which language is formed. Later, Metzger writes, ‘I brought a weather with me // but it was not expectable / that he would stay this long,’ and I tremble. Really, there is something of Dickinson’s elemental shudder in Metzger’s lyric; I feel it in that deep molten core of me only real art can touch. ‘What vision can be given? / What visible is true?’ Lying In is brilliant, no bullshit. Elizabeth Metzger has become one of my favorite living poets.”
“Elizabeth Metzger’s Lying In is a brave book about what enormous things you will do for those you love. Told from the perspective of bedrest, the book uncovers and examines the pain and possibility we all hold within us while lying still. Within this book, poetry lies itself on its own spacious bed, telling us all about the very strangeness of being and what great energy it takes to bother to exist at all. Metzger writes, ‘Child I bend around you / like a boat. / If you live / do not blame the wave.’ Within these lines, we are all the children of poetry, left there wondering if someone will save us. This book will save us.”