Composed of six interrelated full-length collections, THE SPEAK ANGEL SERIES is a work of stunning accomplishment and ambition by Alice Notley, winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, among many other honors.
THE SPEAK ANGEL SERIES is composed of six full-length books in various forms but towards the achievement of a unifying epic narrative in which the poet, as character, leads all the souls of all the living and dead to a point zero where the remaking of the cosmos can be performed. As this is being done, the official public world takes place in Paris, France and the United States, and new “characters” are incorporated from the news and from the poet’s life. The forms include a long-line narrative broken by lyric stand-alones, an operatic form designed to make the reader chant if reading aloud, two spiritual sequels to the author’s book The Descent of Alette, written in the same stanzaic form, a book that is simply a collection of different kinds of poems, a book formed by literary collaging, and a final, long book that is the volume’s ultimate culmination. THE SPEAK ANGEL SERIES took years to accomplish but is finally ready; it is meant to be read for plot, pleasure, musical experience, wisdom and truth. Why not? The books present something like a cosmology in the philosophical sense, a reading of existence and of death. The dead are very close-by and available in the series, which is a work of stunning ambition.
“The range, comprehensiveness, and empathetic imagination of Alice Notley’s poems are among the major astonishments of contemporary poetry. Book by surprising book, she reinvents not only herself as a poet, but also what it means for anyone to write a poem at this volatile moment in our history.” —Robert Polito
“Alice Notley is a disobedient medium: the dead speak through her and she speaks back. Sometimes she’s a poet of intimate address, sometimes of epic sweep. Notley’s formal experiments allow us to make contact with poetry’s originary and anarchic force.” — Ben Lerner
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Alice Notley was born in Bisbee, Arizona and grew up in Needles, California, in the Mojave Desert. Notley is the author of more than forty books of poetry, including At Night the States (Yellow Press, 1987), the double volume CLOSE TO ME AND CLOSER . . . (THE LANGUAGE OF HEAVEN) AND DÉSAMÈRE, and How Spring Comes (Toothpaste Press, 1981), which was a co-winner of the San Francisco Poetry Award. Her epic poem The Descent of Alette was published by Penguin in 1996, followed by Mysteries of Small Houses (1998), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. Notley's long poem "Disobedience" won the Griffin International Prize in 2002. In 2005 the University of Michigan Press published a book of essays on poetry, Coming After. Her own most recent books of poetry are EARLY WORKS (Fonograf Editions, 2023), THE SPEAK ANGEL SERIES (Fonograf Editions, 2023), and For the Ride (Penguin Books, 2020). Over the years Notley edited or co-edited three poetry journals: CHICAGO, SCARLET, and Gare du Nord. She is also a collagist and cover artist. In 2015 she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Prize, for lifetime achievement in poetry.