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Brittany Perham's first collection, The Curiosities, fixes its sure and unsettling gaze on daughters and fathers, sisters and brothers, madness, sickness, longing and love. These poems make up a cabinet of curiosities because they hold what is fascinating or frightening, beautiful or awesome— a "stomach plumed by syringe," a "zoo's lost leopard," a "forest of high-waisted trees"— up to the eye. In their image-making, the poems place language itself beneath the glass slide of a microscope in order to discern its component structures, its natural patterns. Curiosity here is a way of looking—unsatisfiable, looping back on itself, yielding only further questions. In these uncanny and passionate poems our own lives are made strange to us, and we are wonderstruck.
The poems in The Curiosities make a powerful system, almost an atmosphere out of stories of the body and memories of place. In poem after poem, the speaker is mysterious but never remote; the language is deliberate but never staged. And at all times, the music, intensity and craft of the work bring us close. This is a wonderful debut collection. —Eavan Bolan
With curatorial precision and a starling's penchant for multiple threads in both song and shelter, Brittany Perham has fashioned a haven of curiosities captivating to the ear as well as the eye. These poems dream in color and sound: bright, chantant, lifting and lowering the music and the light, so that we are transported from this world into the antechambers of the heart and back again. You cannot re-enter the waking world after reading these lucid, eloquent poems and not feel forever changed. —D. A. Powell
As with all wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities, it is the quality of the collected wonders that matters. A brother's illness, a family's disintegration and abiding bonds, the odd dignity of children, a teacher's suicide, loss and redemption of a vital love—these old stories, in Brittany Perham's hands, become new. Poems whose titles derive from other poets and poems—Wyatt, Frost, Dickinson, nursery rhyme—serve as touchstones, letting us know that although a "hard season" of strange forsaking has passed, in its wake is a coming to terms with pain's exactitude and the happinesses that, as Dickinson said, "would be life." In "Afterlove," the poet describes her wary hope as "stiff carriers crowd[ing] / my rooms, an army of competing clatter / and rust," yet she dares to further hope: "I saw there was something still / for each of us to want. // Gulls dispersed, white / above the roofline, so white / I could not tell / one from the other, nor one / from the sky." Such ecstasy and oneiric yearning are just two marvels of this irresistible collection. —Lisa Russ Spaar
Brittany Perham is a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford University, where she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow from 2009-2011. Her work may be found in the Bellevue Literary Review, Drunken Boat, Lo-Ball, Southern Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in San Francisco.