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Our Sudden Museum

Robert Fanning

ISBN: 978-1-910669-67-9

Page Count: 82

Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Cover Artwork: Glenn Horan

Click to play audio Robert Fanning reads "The Field Between Us" from O... play
Click to play audio Robert Fanning reads "The House We Almost Bought" play
Click to play audio Robert Fanning reads "What is Written on the Leave... play

About this Book

With elegies to a brother, sister and father at the core, Robert Fanning’s third collection examines what sustains in us in spite of loss. In richly sonic and poignant lyrics, we witness the wilder forces beyond our houses and families and bastions of safety—of birds and wind, field and sea—of the beauty and devastation that we cannot contain and to which we eventually succumb. In poems alternately harrowing and humorous, bright and bittersweet, Fanning looks beyond grief to his children and the world to come, in a tenacious celebration of both impermanence and of what endures. 


“With this collection, Robert Fanning emerges as one of the strongest of a wildly talented generation of younger American poets. His poems are full-throated, his heart is large enough to drive a truck through, his imagination has (and needs) no brakes, and he has learned his trade. This is a brilliant book.”  
Thomas Lux
Author of twelve books of poetry and winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

“In his much-anticipated third collection, Robert Fanning records and rolls into the sparks and stardust of a life simultaneously bursting with a brave display of lovesong and loss.  What it means to make a family—in all the forms of that charged word—is on full display here as Fanning knows all too well the delicate dance we must do in this life, how to chase and confront “the swing of rope and blade,” while trying to “teach escape to these I keep.” It’s a marvel of a collection, displaying one of the rarest of gifts: that in spite of such gut-wrenching loss, we can still float, “in the pitch of us, the bedlam and hum, in the rush of wind and sea.”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Author of Miracle Fruit, At the Drive-in Volcano, and Lucky Fish

“A testament to the power of elegy, the poems in Our Sudden Museum actualize the world in which we all rise and fall. Though several poems smolder from tragedy, this book does not dishearten because, though tuned to the music of sorrow, Fanning's voice pulses with the fullness of being alive.”
Matt Rasmussen
Author of Black Aperture, Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award


Author Biography

Robert Fanning is the author of two previous full-length poetry collections: American Prophet (Marick Press) and The Seed Thieves (Marick Press), as well as two chapbooks: Sheet Music (Three Bee Press), and Old Bright Wheel (Ledge Press Poetry Award). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, and other journals. Recent work has also appeared on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio and on the nationally-syndicated radio program The Poet and the Poem, recorded at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. He is a Professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI., where he lives with his wife, sculptor Denise Whitebread Fanning, and their two children. 


Read a sample from this book

The Field Between Us

You’re gone and I’m still here.
No current sparks into flame. 
My static charge remains the same—

end to like end, I cleave
our terminal ravine. Our love’s 
repellent air. Our ever faraway near. 



The House We Almost Bought

Passing the house we almost bought 
I look through its windows at the man 
I almost was, with his wife who’s almost 
glad. The children who were almost ours 
are almost asleep in rooms they almost had. 
The walls are the light of almost day. 
I almost stop to say hello. But most days 
when I pass the people we almost were, 
they’re quiet as songs almost composed. 
I almost don’t want to interrupt 
where they’re almost going. 
The man I almost was pauses at the window 
almost shattered by the sun, as if to almost pray. 
I almost wonder if he sees me pass, then wonder 
what he is about to almost say, as if I’m someone 
he almost knows, or could almost be, 
which is almost true. He almost is. 


What is Written on the Leaves 

Of the season, let go. Of the ache to shape and make meaning, 
let go. Of the hand in the dark, moss and worm, the awful gnaw. 
Of the docked tongue, the root-clenched heart. Let go trunk mold, 
branch rot. Of the green shoot that sprouts through your death, 
being born, let go. Of the changing light—the euphonious chorus 
of children, let go. Of your mother’s hand, your father’s laughter. 
Of what has happened to us. Of all far-flung and gone, let go. 
Of holding your head in your hands. Of the sap-drawn kiss, 
the tickle and itch of weeds, of love’s ooze and ease, let go. 
Of I am sorry. Of mote and thorn, of throat dust. Of I need to, 
I want to, I have to, I forgot to. Of empty and ample. Of all 
the threadbare maps, let go. Of lavish and blaze, the crimson 
and gold of this glorious leaving. Sister, prayerful sister, 
brother hanging from a branch, let go. Of the myriad and ravenous, 
these parasitic griefs, let go. Of the gnarled lie, the spine, the trunk 
bent earthward, of gravemouth and world. Of I miss everyone 
even when they’re near. Of faith, of the perennial kneel, 
the anchored dream, the hold and hull of flesh and soul. 
Of what should I have said to save you, of withered stalk: 
stuck here, wanting there, let go. Of the clank and drag 
of anger’s black anvil. Of the fresh and cleansing rain, of every breath. 
Of snow, of the fluttering moth, of shadow, of the tethers 
of language, let go. Of look at all I’ve accomplished. Of province 
and coastline, of tall grass swaying, the thunderhead tumble 
of summer, of a loneliness that’s known you best, of a box 
of shells, of the gulls, let go. Let go of thrust and skirl, of desire. 
Let go of panic and skitter and sweat. Of pleasure, of bloodroot 
and blossom, of touch and hunger. Of phlox and lily, of homesick, 
of who was I then, let go. Of marigold, iris, daisy, of the moon 
and the pines, of the dew-wet lick and wisp, the lemon spill 
of spring mornings, of chasing kites, of running with shoes untied. 
Let go of all the songs. Of wall and beam, of plumb line and pen, 
of I no longer recognize my hands. Let go of the worn pages, 
of pilgrimage, of grace, of afterward. Of stay with me, don’t go, 
let go. Of all the shatter and ash. Of your daughter’s, your son’s, 
your love’s hands. Of horizon, of what will become of all of this. 
Of loose tooth, spindrift, farewell, here goes: let go. 


Copyright © Robert Fanning 2017

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