Allison Benis White



"In her moving book-length meditation on language and bereavement, Please Bury Me in This, the poet Allison Benis White writes, "In the museum of sadness, in the museum of light-- // I would climb so carefully inside the glass coffin and lower the lid." The book enacts just such an attempt, to enter the space of the unspeakable--the suffering of those lost to suicide--and to speak there, but the gestures of longing remain fraught, haunted by hopelessness, destined to begin and begin again. The suicide note, the letter to the dead, the message scrawled by a death camp victim and buried in a jar--they resonate as modes of singing, of reaching toward the inaccessible, whose radical mystery remains, and therein resides a measure of the music's beauty, its power to hold us, if only briefly, in its glass. Out of the mouth, a ring of gray against a wall. Out of emptiness, a listening, an inconsolable compulsion to ‘assemble the soul.’"
Judges Citation for the 2018 Rilke Prize

"Allison Benis White is a poet driven by duende, what Federico García Lorca called “the true struggle,” in which an artist sees the possibility of death up close—so close it burns her blood “like powdered glass.” In her extraordinary new duende-driven collection, Allison Benis White writes so intimately of our proximity to death that each line becomes, as she writes in one poem, like a mouth “open to snow.” "
Idra Novey

"In Please Bury Me in This, Allison Benis White articulates loss as the vine that winds, hungry for contact, into and around emptiness to become something beautiful. Her delicate and elegant furor scribendi reads like a lucid dream in which mortality—the wonder of it, as well as its attendant terrors—is made palpable. “Not fonder, not fonder—the heart grows stranger,” she writes, in a clarity so accurate it hurts. This book haunts."
Amy Newman

"“I am you gone,” writes the narrator of Allison Benis White’s engrossing and sorrowful new book. Please Bury Me in This is an extended elegy, not only for the dead, but for writing, for poetry itself. Run through by white space, these pages hover somewhere between a poetic line and a sentence—‘I am writing you this letter./ I am trying to understand sentences,’ says the narrator and, later, “these words, their spectacular lack.”….While the book suggests some additional concerns, addiction, for one, the unrelenting gaze at mortality is the central action and activity of this powerful new volume. Please Bury Me in This is, again, in White’s compelling words, “the softest howl.”"
Lynn Emanuel

"Allison Benis White’s sentences and fragments move very delicately around something absent at their center, delineating that something more and more precisely until, finally, we know it absolutely and intimately without, still, being able to name it. Haunting and resonant, these images all fall perfectly, exactly where they're needed, building up into a whole that extends far beyond this extraordinary book."
Cole Swensen



"This brilliant book-length collection of prose poems transforms a death into a haunting. Small Porcelain Head is written into the fragility, the already shattered state of loss: 'I left a sweater on a train in Dover last fall–if I would have shivered, noticed emptiness or shoulders.' The site of brokenness functions as both the location of the lyric and the moment of release for the living–bereavement or descent into the suicide of the relinquished life are parallel ways of letting a voice go. The landscape of these poems recalls a musical score where despair flees and chases itself eternally. Once read, Small Porcelain Head refuses the page–it circles and harmonizes that which cannot be harmonized. I was mezmerized."
Claudia Rankine, Judge, the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry



"An oblique conversation with Degas reigns throughout this collection of oddly heartbreaking pieces. Against the backdrop of his paintings and sketches, we find ourselves in an intimate world, coherent but uncanny, where private memory becomes inseparable from the culture we hold in common, and all of it just barely cracked open, riven by interstices through which we glimpse the vivid but unsayable. White has given us a truly exceptional first collection, deeply musical and intricately haunting."
Cole Swensen, author of Ours and the Book of A Hundred Hands

"I found myself thinking of Frost as I read these beautifully disturbing poems–'The whole great enterprise of life, of the world, the great enterprise of our race, is our penetration into matter, deeper and deeper, carrying the spirit deeper into matter.' Allison Benis White does just that, pulsing between a childlike wonder at the things of this world, and a seemingly hard-earned self-consciousness at the difficulty in naming them–in these poems a mother is missing, a God is to be feared, the snow is broken, and yet, 'maybe this is enough: to lose.' This is an amazing debut."
Nick Flynn, author of Some Ether and Blind Huber

"A fugitive mother haunts these prose poems where absences are presences that 'briefly in the air crown the shape of what is no longer there.' Although Degas–another motherless child–provides conceptual armature for Allison Benis White's portrayals, this book might be A Season in Hell for our times. Its descents, sudden and disorienting, exert enormous pressure; there's a narcosis of the depths in the voice, a refusal of return to mere surfaces that echoes Rimbaud. Yet White's poems are also intimate as a box of pins–bright sharps she pricks into the map of orphan-world, to mark each site of betrayal and bewilderment."
Robert Hill Long, author of The Work of the Bow and The Effigies

"These poems are beautiful, sometimes achingly so. Allison Benis White writes from a unique sensibility, and I admire and am moved by her capacity for sight. I noticed myself holding my breath as I read, for there's an exquisite tension created in the deftly unfolding juxtaposition of image, meaning and sound. Each of her sentences is a stroke, and her poems gradually sketch stunning works that reward the reader."
Forrest Hamer, author of Rift and Call & Response

"Allison Benis White's work doesn't just convey sincerity, but is undeniably genuine. Her use of the prose poem form is particularly suited to profundity hidden in the everyday, to a kind of casual brilliance. It strikes me that, more important than being poetic, Ms. White has tried to be a feeling human, and has worked carefully to craft that discipline into beauty.
Killarney Clary, author of Potential Stranger and Who Whispered Near Me





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