“Beth Bachmann’s Temper was the last time [in forty years] I remember reading a first book by a poet so prodigally and—the word that came to my mind was—severely gifted. The new poems in Do Not Rise are a quantum leap forward with all the metaphorical leaps, adumbrations, dizzyings, deft, brief knottings that make the poems in Temper so dazzling. A remarkable young talent, and a scary one.”
The collection's conceptual center—and its most insistent word—is "open." . . . The resulting gaps open the poem to a meaningful range of pauses, hesitations, delays, sonic mutations, reconsiderations. . . . There is so much seeing in its listening.
Beth Bachmann's Temper was the last time [in forty years] I remember reading a first book by a poet so prodigally and—the word that came to my mind was—severely gifted. The new poems in Do Not Rise are a quantum leap forward with all the metaphorical leaps, adumbrations, dizzyings, deft, brief knottings that make the poems in Temper so dazzling. A remarkable young talent, and a scary one.
The author of but one other book of poetry, Temper (2009), Bachmann has already established herself as a powerful voice in contemporary poetics, one who writes like 'a sibyl burning the leaves and smelling the smoke,' as poet Robert Hass has described her. While Temper addresses the unsolved murder of her sister, her second collection takes war as its central theme as she goes inside the heads of soldiers suffering from PTSD, explores unrestrained governmental surveillance, and mines traumatic memories. Bachmann crafts images of arresting serenity ('No snow on the road, only falling'), disconcerting severity ('Fingers / in the mouth make mud / into a poultice to warm / the dead'), and haunting intimacy ('Unknown soldier, you hardly say you love me but you love me like ice / the orchid takes slowly in its turning toward light'). With deeply resonant lyrics, strange grace, and unorthodox arrangement, Bachmann is in good company among poets such as Charlotte Boulay (Foxes on a Trampoline, 2014), Dana Goodyear (The Oracle of Hollywood Boulevard, 2013), and D.A. Powell (Useless Landscape, 2012).
A fierce collection, one that reminds us of poetry's vital place in processing our never-ending wars.
Nearly two centuries after the first recorded use of the term, 'war poet' still defies easy definition. It is a fraught laurel, one which Beth Bachmann wears with unflinching honesty and passion. Her latest collection,' Do Not Rise', demonstrates the lyric's ability to transcend its music and offer a haunting perspective on both violence and its aftermath . . . Indeed, it is difficult to imagine more vital poems than the ones Bachmann writes.
Bachmann's poetry is morning light sliced by blinds, fragmented and illuminating. It doesn't burn when it settles on your skin, but its warmth unnerves. Its brightness momentarily blurs all sight. This warm unnerving, this brightened blurriness draws readers from sleep into a realm of sensation and forces us to pay attention.
The core question 'Do Not Rise' seems to pose is how do we see the world now, after all the things we've been through—all the violence, guilt and grief? This is where 'Do Not Rise' excels. . . the moments of stillness and depth (or the clever and funny, for that matter) that Bachmann finds in her work are well-worth looking for. 'Do Not Rise' reads like a beautiful shuddering. Bachmann's poems shake in frustration towards the pain of war, and each pitch of grief can only help to herald the arrival of more pain, more loss, and more seeking.
The collection's most powerful creative device [is] positioning nature beside the harrowing images of war.
The poems are terrifying and complex-—the words seem to loom in every part of the room long after you read them. Do Not Rise is purposefully unmoored by particulars. It is abstract in the strongest way, revealing something intrinsic and unrestricted, theoretical and affecting.
Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry and the author of two prior books from the Pitt Poetry Series: Temper, winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Do Not Rise, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. Poems from CEASE received the Virginia Quarterly Review Emily Clark Balch Prize. Each fall, Bachmann serves as Writer in Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.learn more