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The Fraud of Good Sleep is a book of “serious humanist” poems. Theis’s poems combine a stunning, classical rigor with a passionate madness that is utterly contemporary and surprising. Charting the magic arc of a modern love story on a banjo string or through birch-white epistles left behind at a deserted campsite, these poems engage in the oblivion of snow, intoxicants, and broken-heartedness since living includes loving where “destruction be our lot.” It’s a place where fortunes are told: “Degenerate fruit and burned apple wood. / The impure equals the fertile plain.” From prose poems and extended lyric sequences to translations and fragments, this book attempts to enfold the living past into the insane present. Or, what you might call “the wild hunt to baptize the dead.”
‘With The Fraud of Good Sleep, Catherine Theis gives us poetry as sensuous, glinting energy. Swerving between the intimate and the adamant, these poems feel like letters written to you by someone who’s in love with the world—someone whose eyes and heart are wide open, who’s learned (and keeps learning) from the ancients, who can mingle her voice with Sappho’s and smile wickedly at Dante. There are musings on cities and foods (“Who will bring the chocolates weather permitting?”), mock lectures, disarming wisdom (“Fidelity, the sea we share in peaceful times”), and exhortations to live—to live well. “My concern,” writes Theis, “is with circumference, many-faceted / crystal wine glasses, Roman aqueducts, all sorts / of highway thinking.” These are poems flashing with wonder and humor, but “roughed in sorrow,” hard-won in their realizations. They are full of the bright ache of being alive.’ —Joanna Klink
‘Catherine Theis’s The Fraud of Good Sleep is a riotous and refined celebration of language. It is elegant and erudite without ever being stuffy, and surprising at every turn. A truly dashing collection, full of glitter, and everywhere intimating the “joy in the mountains very near.”’ —Maggie Nelson
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