The impressive and challenging Bang, winner of the 2007 NBCC Award for  Elegy, has never been accused of optimism, but this powerful, caustic set of lyrical and antilyrical works might be her harshest collection yet. Bang rebukes herself and her readers, dresses down civilization, takes on species extinction, militarism, and bodily decay while warning us—in as many ways as the language can bear—that the end of everything is near. A map is “an empire/ of uncommon horror: the human speaking:/ ‘Every moment all that matters is me.’ ” Thought won’t help: in the title poem, “[T]he mind/ isn’t everything, only a gray-suited troop of mechanics/ working to ratchet the self through the teeth of a wheel.” Animals, species, ways of life die off: “[E]very last scene lasts for no more/ than a second; some ceramic panther/ stands in for the extinct. Is it today yet?” Bang addresses sources of doom that are not our fault (mortality) and those that are (climate change); her pessimistic conclusion draws on cultural lodestones from Virginia Woolf and Franz Kafka to Walter Benjamin and Cyndi Lauper. Attentive readers who delve into Bang’s sharply articulated vision will find them unforgiving indeed—and those same readers will praise her to the skies.

Publishers Weekly 



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Mary Jo Bang's poetry is vivacious and at the same time mysterious. Its surface glitters with the sparkle that the brightest American writing has always given off, and in the depths it reveals a mixture of smoky, quickly complexities, a blend that is hers alone. Characters are driven to distress or exuberance by the fate she has prepared for them—their stories bloom on the page, ripen strangely, and quickly disappear. I love it."
—John Tranter



Graywolf Poetry Reading

AWP Minneapolis, MN

Thursday April 9 2015   12:00 pm to 1:15 pm 

Room 101 F&G, Level 1

(Mary Jo Bang, Katie Ford, Matthea Harvey, Nick Flynn)



© 2015 by Mary Jo Bang