New lyric poetry by Rachel Galvin explores an ethical response to American comfort and its ties to war and exploitation. The poems in this collection reflect on news reporting, natural disasters, journalist safety, and the act of observing war from a distance as a civilian. Written in a variety of forms and registers—from elegies to faits divers to sonnets—Elevated Threat Level thinks about violence and the rhetoric used to convey it. The book is also a tribute to the print form of the newspaper.
From Elevated Threat Level:
In Wartime There Are No Civilians
But you weren’t there when the house was bombed, what could you tell them?
You hadn’t seen the girl chain herself down either.
And if you had, you wouldn’t remember it now.
Their badges weren’t written in your language.
High-octane fuel, they said.
A dog crouched nearby, they said.
The referent eludes you, keeps eluding you.
Damn the cages, damn the metal works, this place
is a hinterland of bulldozers and people
whose chests crack open in their path.
Praise for the book:
Perhaps every poem is a riddle for which the answer is the poem itself. Perhaps each of these adroit lyrics by the poet, critic, translator, and activist Rachel Galvin is a riddle for which the answer is the entire world in all its sad, brutal, and delightful contradiction. For surely every brief lyric in this book feels simultaneously triaged amidst a world of active damage and precisely poised, resourceful, nimble as a needle, quick as a stitch. For surely every brief lyric in this book has the dazzle and dismay of a candle, just as it goes out. –Joyelle McSweeney
These ingenious, funny-sad, empathic poems are woundingly precise in their exposure of a pattern of world-damage, of power misused “in our name.” The recent history spotlighted in Galvin’s poems is nauseating, but it’s rendered with such pleasurably incisive phrasing and sonic swerve that I look up from the book awake, clarified, galvanized to face again the music and the news. –Catherine Wagner
About the author:
Rachel Galvin is the author of News of War: Civilian Poetry 1936-1945 (Oxford UP, 2018) and co-editor, with Bonnie Costello, of Auden at Work (2015) and a poetry collection titled Pulleys & Locomotion (2009). She is translator of Raymond Queneau’s Hitting the Streets (2013) and co-translator, with Harris Feinsod, of Decals: Complete Early Poetry of Oliverio Girondo (Open Letter Books, 2018). Poems and translations appear in The Boston Review, Colorado Review, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, MAKE, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, PN Review, and Poetry. Her criticism appears in Comparative Literature Studies, ELH, Jacket 2, MLN, and Modernism/modernity. She is a co-founder of Outranspo, an international creative translation collective. Galvin is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago.