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September 2014
96 pages  

6 x 9
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Best Bones
Nordgren, Sarah Rose
Winner of the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

The poems of Best Bones allude to landscapes of history, fable, and childhood myth, yet are fraught with modern day predicaments that create an atmosphere at once familiar and strange, playful and haunted, and verging on disaster. With imaginative intelligence, Nordgren maintains a snow-globe control of the whole scene.

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Sarah Rose Nordgren’s poems have appeared in Agni, Ploughshares, the Iowa Review, the Harvard Review, the Literary Review, the Best New Poets anthology, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of two fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
"A uniquely American fairy tale. In these tales, gender, war, religion, and the American South are some of the subjects that children are coming to grips with. When Ed Ochester calls Nordgren's poems 'part Alice in Wonderland,' he gets it just right-their lines remind us that sometimes the kids are in charge, the adults don't have all the answers, and the moral doesn't make sense . . . Our worst tragedies and our greatest joys are the interruptions, the realities of life and the morals of stories. Through a series of wondrous, fantastical images, Nordgren conveys unspeakable emotion. We're transported back to the first time someone stood over us with the offer of only a story, begging us to listen closely." --Coal Hill Review

“There is a strange feeling as you turn the pages of ‘Best Bones’ by Sarah Rose Nordgren. Something is out of kilter, unorthodox may be the proper term but I do believe original best describes the poetry of Nordgren. She is a narrative poet dwelling equally in the shadows and light of life.”—Fox Chase Review

“These poems, crisp and lovely in their language, are unwaveringly devoted to charting the strangeness of the female experience.”--Devil’s Lake

“Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones is a book rich in architecture and the bones of architecture. She shows us ‘what a long hinge the body makes’—and reminds us that there are indeed ‘stories we live in against nature’ and ‘rooms . . . built from twine.’ The voices and narratives within her poems do more than haunt; they resound, reverberate within and without the lyric enclosures she has made for them. Best Bones is beautiful—a stunning, welcome debut.”—Claudia Emerson

“With her love for fable and folklore, her courting of the uncanny, and her intensive use of dramatic monologue, Sarah Rose Nordgren arrives among us with a minutes-to-midnight voice: stagy, controlling, and quietly alarmed, but always intimate—an indiscreet whisper telling us of events and feelings that we must give ourselves up to totally. Its shadow life glows as keenly as the light, and its light seems almost helpless. A terrific debut by a poet to watch.”—David Rivard

“Startling and alive, Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones introduces a poet of intense lyricism and narrative compression. These deeply felt poems have an ineffable strangeness yet a sense of rightness. Some terrify like childhood stories. Some amaze like myths. All are beautifully imagined, hauntingly observant, and contain a dynamic tension between the cool surface of craft and the human heat of the heart. Ready yourself, American poetry, for this phenomenal new voice.”—Stuart Dischell

"It's rare to discover a collection that is unique in its severity, one that equally makes you cringe and keeps you reading with mutual ease. And ['Best Bones'], by far, was one of those collections, so much so that I found it difficult to put my admiration into words. Nordgren creates . . . the most beautiful disparate meaning through her pairing of the subtle and the severe. . . . You need to take the time to emotionally invest yourself in these pages. It's demanding and raw and lovely and is so desperately worth your time. You won't regret it for a second."--McKenzie Lynn Tozan

"Maps out the voices and shapes that paradoxical loss and freedome can take.”--Story South

Complete Description Reviews
Pitt Poetry Series Table of Contents
Poetry Read a selection from this book

Winner of the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize

Best Bones is a house. When you walk around the rooms of the house, you overhear the desires and griefs of a family, as well as the unresolved concerns of lingering ghosts. The various voices in the house struggle against the family roles and social identities that they must wear like heavy garments—mother, father, wife, husband, sister, brother, servant, and master. All these voices crave unification; they want to join themselves into one whole sentient being, into “a mansion steering itself.”

The poems in Best Bones also explore the experience of living in a physical body, and how the natural world intersects with manmade landscapes and technologies. In it, mother has a reset button, servants blend into the furniture, and a doctor patiently oversees the pregnancy of the earth.

In these poems, the body is a working machine, a repository of childhood myth and archetype, and a window to the spiritual world. The poems strive to be visceral on the level of dream, or of a story that is half remembered and half fabricated.



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