Embark (Toadlily Press 2012)

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What a pleasure to find four distinct and original voices between the covers of a single book. Eleanor Paynter’s well-wrought poems enchant and haunt with their disarming uncanniness. Sierra Nelson’s poems distort, distill, and dislocate the ordinary into extraordinary, into the enigmatic. David Morse’s poems offer us an authentic and keen-edge poetry of witness as they take us far from home. Emily Stokes’ poems begin in the familiar and the familial and yet we find ourselves, in the end, amid the otherworldly and angelic.

Eric Pankey

Departure abounds in this book—in the dawn, in a glass violin, in the journey from one ministry to another. One poem advises: “Write it down and get out.” But there is no escape, only more leaving, which we call embarking to remake endings into a beginning. Even as countries, homes, and beloveds are left, the world waits, alive in the details, in the “calla lily weighed with rain,” in the “black knot of winter,” in the “red-haired girl and her white rat.” Every memory resurrects the past. Every exodus heralds change. These poems are made new by every love, every loss, every leaving.

Traci Brimhall

Each of the four poets in this quartet of chapbooks brings a distinct vision and rhythm to the pages they share. Their differences create a “new now” as Eleanor Paynter writes in her stunning poem “Visitation,” what Sierra Nelson calls a “rogue wave,” the sensation David Morse describes as breaking open what one “didn’t know was locked.” The dissonance between these poems is their poetry, which is, as Emily Stokes writes, “where the body meets the earth.”

Idra Novey

This volume is a fourfold path, noble in its own right. In Eleanor Paynter’s Dismantling the Hive, images of nature and loss and separation circle each other like moons. In In Case of Loss, Sierra Nelson’s no-nonsense everyday surrealism fights back against the injustices of love and life, while David Morse’s Healing Knife creates a powerful juxtaposition of the calm and quiet of his Connecticut home and the horrors and transgressions occurring in Africa. Finally, in Emily Stokes’ What Happens in the End, the writer “is a night alone,” creating elegiac and elegant snapshots of life. Following this fourfold path is definitely a journey worth taking. Read on.

John Surowiecki



DAVID MORSE was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Arlington, VA, and has lived in Connecticut since 1964. He has taught high school English, community college, worked as a journalist, photographer, and renovated old houses. Widely traveled in Europe, Asia, Africa, Russia, and Cuba, David is married to poet Joan Joffe Hall.

SIERRA NELSON’s collaborative book Take Back the Sponge Cake with artist Loren Erdrich (Rose Metal Press 2012) won NYU’s Washington Square Collaboration Award. She earned her MFA in poetry from University of Washington, is a MacDowell fellow, and co-founder of literary performance art groups The Typing Explosion and Vis-à-Vis Society. She lives in Seattle, WA.

 ELEANOR PAYNTER has roots in Texas, Rome, and New York, and holds degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and Agnes Scott College. Her work has appeared in New MadridNimrodQuiddityThrushWashington Square Review, and other journals. She lives in the Netherlands, where she works as a teacher, translator, and editor.

 EMILY STOKES grew up in Bucks County PA and graduated from Dickinson College in 2011. Her work has appeared in Collision Literary MagazineThe Dirty NapkinStone Highway Review, and The Monongahela Review. She has worked as a writing tutor for several years and is currently pursuing an MFA degree at Sarah Lawrence College.

Order the Book

For review copies or to schedule readings, contact editor@toadlilypress.com.


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