The Red Bird

The Red Bird

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Author: Joyelle McSweeney 

Publisher: Fence Books (2001)

With the persistent, dappled vision of an ecstatic pragmatist, Joyelle McSweeney sees things as they are through "the modern knothole." Eventuality, delicately shaded by the fine and fearless intelligence of these kinesthetic arrangements, coincides with imaginative possibility; the resulting poems are as much mind as place.

The Red Bird has more in common with a fast red car, except that it does, indeed, fly. Within its agile slips and twists, McSweeney has managed a rare insight, casting our own historical moment as the postmodern medieval, full of knights running errands, where Machu Picchu, Radio Sucre, and lawn chairs all take on Biblical proportions. Except that it’s really Darwin we’re talking about, as he careens around the globe. She deflates this and other old battles by giving us new terms: ‘O beautiful he produceth / language from everyplace / on his body. . .’ This is a stunning first book. It glows in the dark.”

Cole Swensen

“[McSweeney’s] poems are neither reductive nor fantastic. But they are profoundly mysterious in the way any truthful account of the world must be. Joyelle McSweeney is a poet with a vocation—a calling to the world. What is given her (the vocation) is to make others see what is given her to see.”

Allen Grossman

Winner of the 2001 Fence Modern Poets Series Prize, selected by Allen Grossman