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Soon and Wholly (Wesleyan Poetry)

Soon and Wholly (Wesleyan Poetry)

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Publication Date: September 3rd, 2024
Wesleyan University Press


New poetry by the author of acclaimed 2023 novel Take What You Need faces the complexities of life on a swiftly heating earth.

Idra Novey's first collection in a decade, since Patricia Smith chose Exit, Civilian for the National Poetry Series, brings a lyric intimacy to the extremes of our era. The poems juxtapose sweltering days raising children in a city with moments from a rural childhood roaming free in the woods, providing a bridge between those often polarized realities. Novey's spare, contemporary fables move across the Americas, from a woman housesitting in central Chile, surrounded by encroaching fires, to a man in New York about to give birth to a panda.

Other poems return to the Allegheny Highlands of Appalachia, where Novey revisits the roads and creeks of her childhood: "Maybe we knew we only appeared/to be floating, but soon and wholly/we'd go under." Like Lydia Davis and Anne Carson, Novey draws from the well of her work translating myriad authors, from Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector to Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian, and from her own award-winning novels. These are deeply lived poems, evoking both a singular life and the shared urgencies of our time, a collection of great inventiveness and wit, conjuring our "bit part in the history of the future."

sample text]

The Duck Shit at Clarion Creek

We liked to stick it in a BB gun and shoot it.

We tattooed with it.

We said Hallelujah, the poor man's tanning lotion.

Then the frack wells began, something black capping the water and we got high watching a green-backed heron die.

We got funny at Clarion, flung each other's underwear into the trees.

Why was it we got naked there like nowhere else?

Maybe we knew we were getting rusted inside as the trucks we rode into the water.

Maybe we only appeared to be floating, but soon and wholly we'd go under, get sucked to the bottom.

We'd sink and become creek bed; its deep mud would claim us, hold us hard and close.

About the Author

IDRA NOVEY is the author of Take What You Need, a 2023 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and two other novels. Her second poetry collection Exit, Civilian was chosen by Patricia Smith for the National Poetry Series. Her co-translation of Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian with Ahmad Nadalizadeh was a finalist for the 2021 PEN Poetry in Translation Prize. She teaches creative writing at Princeton University. ERICA BAUM is a photographer and collage artist whose work has been exhibited worldwide.