This Product is Available for Pre-Order
Selected by Louise Glück as Winner of the 2023 Changes Book Prize, Laura Newbern’s second collection is a work of burning, restrained urgency that looks at loss, isolation, the passage of time—and what endures despite. Written in a town that was once home to the world’s largest asylum, these poems are studies in the dual nature of that idea: asylum, always both a protection and an exile.
The “country” of these poems is not, or not only, the idyllic backdrop of a pastoral scene; it is also, and more ominously, the kind of country defined by a flag, dark borderland, and violent history. In other words: place of separation. Writing about the works of Bellini, Newbern shifts focus away from the paintings’ subjects and into the scenery, where landscape is what constitutes the irreducible distance of the paintings’ subjects from every other thing. “The Madonna of the Meadow cannot also be the Madonna not of the Meadow,” Glück writes in her foreword. “No one thing can be everything.”
A NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY is haunted by figures of loneliness who attend to their isolation with a spirit of religiosity, for them a necessary art. This is a quietly astonishing book about the enduring discrepancy between what we hope for and what is possible.
”Laura Newbern’s A NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY is at once direct and mysterious, a book of declarations and decrees subsumed in the language of the fable. These poems romp and turn and wander and wonder with no easy endings in sight, or as Newbern herself might say, ‘Life’s a room: outside/it two great rivers meet in sunlight…there is no help in them.’ These are exceptional poems, and a subtle song of heartbreak plays through every line.” — Jericho Brown
”The poems in A NIGHT IN THE COUNTRY contain poignant inquiries into the satisfactions that images provide, or fail to provide, in our mental and emotional lives. The poet imagines Renaissance painters at work; tries out various self-portraits with animals; resolves discrete images of daily life with an acknowledgement of the passionate distances and trade-offs involved in making art. She maintains a sort of visual staining in mind, so that the significance or resonance of a lyric moment must remain aesthetic, and not existential. In other words, the image houses the mixed feelings and unprovable intuitions that express the lyric impulse: ‘The mind goes back, the heart goes with it, the forest/whirls all around.’ Laura Newbern’s poetry is the more remarkable because it makes these instances feel at once piercing and abidingly generous.” — Sandra Lim
”There’s a voice in this voice. You never want it to stop. But it’s I who stopped, then quietly: I love these poems. Read this book. It will baffle. And get you through.” — Marianne Boruch
Laura Newbern comes from two long lines of Arkansans, was born in Germany, and grew up in Washington, D.C. Her first book, Love and the Eye, was selected by Claudia Rankine for the Kore Press First Book Award, and she's the recipient of a Writer's Award from the Rona Jaffe Foundation. She lives in Georgia and teaches at Georgia College and at Reinhardt University.