Twice Told

Twice Told

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Author: Caryl Pagel

Publisher: The University of Akron Press (2019)

The poems in Twice Told roam through Midwest and western landscapes haunted by shards of nineteenth-century gothic novels, war stories, warnings, and the ghosts of known and imagined lovers, mothers, soldiers, trainmates, and mistresses. These are poems interested in narrative framing, repetition, rumor, humor, and hearsay; poems that loop back in on themselves as they compulsively repeat the details of furious, apparitional pasts—implicating both teller and reader in their impacts.

"Twice Told is a grave collection of accounts and encounters in which premonitions, visions, whispers, and coincidences circle a dire, unidentified plot. Disturbed and disturbing, over-heard and beheld, Pagel's 'perpetual disclosures' chillingly foretell the past and regret the future. How terrifying! How thrilling! Sung in the hushed tones of secret, instinctual, and incremental rhythms, Pagel's beautiful 'catastrophic underground echoes' have the urgent intensity of a steady descent down a spiral staircase in a dream. Moreover, Twice Told has 'a frantic animal soul' that plays dead to survive its own death. When you put down this book of poems you will fear your own shadow."

–Robyn Schiff

"In this extended meditation on narrative and its hauntings, 'I' has given way to 'you,' who holds the stories of others and tells them―and yet, as in any form of travel (which telling is, in this book), the borders between any two or more can blur: and then what happens? In some of the book’s ten Visions, meditation gives way to gnosis: "One kind of absolute actual ceaseless love is the one / where you are trying to keep your beloved alive where / ever he goes you are trying not to let him ever / die [ . . .]." Working with care, patience, and inventiveness, Pagel lets in some of the hardest questions in this deft and probing book."

–Lisa Fishman