A revelatory collection of poems set in the Gulf South, Carolyn Hembree’s For Today chronicles the experience of a woman who becomes a mother shortly after her father’s death and struggles to raise her child amid private and public turmoil. Written in closed and nonce forms that give way to the field composition of the maximalist title poem, the work explores grief, rage, and love in a community vulnerable to Anthropocene climate disasters. Through relationships with her daughter, neighbors, friends, ancestors, other poets (living and dead), and the earth, the speaker is freed to accept and celebrate her own perishability.
Carolyn Hembree is the author of Skinny and Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague. She is associate professor at the University of New Orleans and serves as poetry editor of Bayou Magazine.
“Carolyn Hembree’s For Today is a wild ride of formal innovation, odes, and elegies. Any reader would be taken with the poet’s modified sonnet crown, her villanelle, her prose poems, and the musical opus that is the gorgeously long title poem. But I am most impressed by how Hembree manages all of this while also daring to write a poetry so sharp and bare it aims at nothing but the heart.”
~Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
“Startling poems. A wondrous recreation of form.”
~Toi Derricotte, author of I: New and Selected Poems
“A high-voltage talent, Hembree harnesses the fevered elements of what’s given—fraught landscape, fraught heart—because to do otherwise is to live (and write) a lie that denies love its innately fuguelike truth. These poems spun my reading swiftly into awe.”
~Katie Ford, author of Colosseum
“The long poem ‘For Today’ is a brilliant, existential tour de force. I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t stop. And it gives me that sense that I experience with the very best poems, that I’m not reading them so much as living them.”
~Rodney Jones, author of Alabama
“For Today is a sensuous, extended meditation on intergenerational succession: the perils and ecstasies of raising a child in a time of dying parents, of trying to care for dying parents while raising a child. Inger Christensen is Hembree’s day-sign here, and Rilke her night-sign, but the title poem is very much its own achievement, one of the most ambitious long poems in recent American poetry. It is an extraordinary testimony of resilience, troubled immanence, and the ferocity of love.”
~GC Waldrep, author of The Earliest Witnesses
Carolyn Hembree’s For Today is a stunning collection that explores what it means to be a mother, daughter, friend, and a citizen of the world. Hembree’s poems dazzle with vivid language and an electric array of forms. The long poem from which the collection takes its title is simply spectacular, mapping a city, mind and spirit. This is a book that investigates self and enlarges the world, a book that demands our attention.
~Nicole Cooley, author of Girl after Girl after Girl
"Imagine a crown of sonnets that juxtaposes an elegy for one's father with the overwhelm of a newborn—and then, the Violent Femmes cannonball in. In this electrifying collection, Carolyn Hembree ricochets between formal tradition and the teeming, robust soundtrack of the contemporary mind: 'O streetcar’s / O horn’s O baby’s fugal ken.' Prose poems channel the turbulence of worry and violence—and then, 'Funk Hour, done thunk enough hour.' The anchoring, longform title poem updates the flâneur tradition by activating a nimble, rangy sidewalk tour that moves with quirky visual logic across the page and offers a Whitmanesque set of lush declarations. The narrator plays word games with her daughter, Kiddo, while her thoughts are equally in turn with a friend grappling with cancer; eros and thanatos in meta-tango. In 'For Today,' P is for praline, ping, pamphlet, parrot, proselytize, postscript, plantain, pavement, patterns, peacock. P is for damn fine poetry."
~Sandra Beasley, author of Made to Explode
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