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House of Fact, House of Ruin: Poems (Paperback)
Tom Sleigh’s brilliant new collection is “full of the wonder and eloquence driving profound poetry” (Los Angeles Times)
You’ve got to put your pants on in the house of fact.
And in the house of fact, when you take off your shirt,
you can hear your shirt cry out, Facts are the floor, facts
are how you make the right side talk to the left.
I’m washing my naked belly clean, and doing it with dignity.
I’m turning around, trying to see the filthiness
that keeps making me filthy.
—from “House of Fact, House of Ruin”
“I hate to admit it, but even the house of fact is a house of ruin,” writes Tom Sleigh in the title sequence of this extraordinary new collection. Very much of our present moment, in which fact can so easily be manufactured and ruin so easily achieved by pressing "Send" or pulling a trigger, these poems range across the landscapes of contemporary experience. Whether a militia in Libya or a military base in Baghdad, a shantytown in East Africa or an opulent mall on Long Island, these subjects and locations resonate with the psychic and social costs of having let the genie of war, famine, and climate change out of the lamp in the first place. The book ultimately turns on conundrums of selfhood and self-estrangement in which Sleigh urges us toward a different realm, where we might achieve the freedom of spirit to step outside our own circumstances, however imperfectly, and look at ourselves as other, as unfamiliar, as strange. House of Fact, House of Ruin is Sleigh’s most engaging and virtuosic collection to date.
About the Author
Tom Sleigh is the author of nine previous books of poetry, including Station Zed, Army Cats, and Space Walk, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York.
“In Sleigh’s hands . . . moments of ongoingness mix something of the daily with something of the miraculous. . . . Like [Walt] Whitman, Sleigh here plays with what the observer’s notebook can become. He embeds lines of poetry in journalistic essays like a rogue reporter; conversely, he’ll forge a sonnet or rhymed tercets out of reported language.”—The New York Times Book Review
“What Sleigh helps us see in these poems is something deeper than journalism can offer: a heart and mind torn by inhabiting a world but not fully grasping its pain.”—The Millions
“Sleigh makes poetry go beyond itself. Like Wallace Stevens there’s an imperative beneath the line, words as a consequence of fine-grained thought.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“[A] generous new collection. . . . Sleigh has been to the places and talked with the people of his poems—which aren’t all about conflict but include penetrating elegies, autobiographical bits, ruminations about animals, and more—and he knows the literary bases of the West well, especially Homer and the sonnet (a customary form for him, customarily half-rhymed). Thus informed, his poems range centuries and plumb the mysteries of human inconsistency with haunting forcefulness.”—Booklist
“Sleigh (Station Zed) blurs the boundary between art and artifact as he lyrically documents war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria in this 10th poetry collection. . . . He performs feats of empathy. . . . Sleigh brings readers close to trauma with a lyrical treatment from which one wants to turn but cannot.”—Publishers Weekly