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Michael O’Brien




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Sills gathers together poems from four of O’Brien’s early books and combines them with later work, forming a selection from 1960-1999. O'Brien writes, “The poems dance their dance of stillness and motion. The issue is a quiet, patterned music, animated, disciplined, ecstatic; not closure, but recognition.”

This new edition provides the reader with the best introduction to O’Brien’s work, a poet hailed as a modern master of the lyric form and a poet of genuine significance in the American canon.

Praise for this Book

‘No other poet now writing is more alert from word to word or registers the world with Michael O’Brien’s oblique precision. Sills is a large event: our first comprehensive look at a neglected American master.’ —August Kleinzahler

‘In a way that few contemporary books of poetry can claim to be, Sills is an authentic companion to living, in the midst of radios, waiting rooms, ferryboats, eyelids, fine rain, and everything else to which this poetry is constantly awake.’ —Geoffrey O’Brien

‘Some writers expand, others contract. Over the years O’Brien has pared his poetry to essentials. He shapes this matter in many forms, and the resulting music is declarative, terse, and elegant. No ornament blurs the reader’s intense pleasure.’ —William Corbett

‘Sills, perches, diacritical perspectives on a late world as seen from its very edge: the poetry of Michael O’Brien teeters between the given and the intuited, the perceived and the proposed. As with all significant creative works, his is born of an inherent contradiction. What O’Brien’s eye catches in its relentless observation of an exhausted age (“the rain washing the world away”), his ear, his wonderfully keen lyric acuity, as if refutes, offers up an alternative of its own. (“A vowel/to ride on” or later, “Little bones of/the ear, house built/of air.”) Speech, in these beautifully executed poems,comes to the rescue of substance. “To live high, up among the cornices, from exception to exception, hearing an earthly music” is, ultimately, what Sills is about.’ —Gustaf Sobin

Reviews of this Book

Memory finally connects everything with everything, as if the world were an immense pun: a broadside, against the grain, every synapse firing. O’Brien records this pun with a verve and zeal that is both remarkably fresh and reliably consistent. His wit and speed are ready vehicles for a quite frequently skeptical engagement with the world around him. We should feel lucky to have these poems gathered under one roof.’ —Eirik Steinhoff

‘A poet who’d come to Crane’s girdered city to reconcile everything found the modesty to brave a nature poem about New York. It’s not that he filtered out the din to find a landscape in repose; it was the human sounds and voices that taught him how to hear those aspects of the natural in the city – like rain and the keening, essentially human need to be touched ... Longing, for virtually every poet in the city after Baudelaire, is stirred by visual recognition. O’Brien’s happens in the ear. O’Brien started to hear a city that no one else had ever heard.’ —Lee Smith

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