This powerful debut collection explores the half-shadows of a world torn between faith and doubt. From intricate descriptions of the rooms in a dollhouse, to the stark depiction of a chapel made of bones, from pre-elegies for a ghostly father, to his compelling treatment of his obsessed, human characters (a pastor, a tattoo artist, a sleepwalker, to name only a few), these are poems that wrestle with what it means to believe in something beyond one’s own mortality. Learned and formally adept, these poems consist of equal parts praise and despair. They announce Shewmaker as an important new voice in American poetry.
Michael Shewmaker is the author of LEVIATHAN (2023) and PENUMBRA (2017), winner of the 2016 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His recent poems appear in Best American Poetry, The Believer, Oxford American, Ploughshares, Southern Review, Yale Review, and other literary journals and anthologies. Born in Texarkana, Texas, he earned an M.F.A. from McNeese State University and a Ph.D. in creative writing from Texas Tech University. He teaches creative writing at Stanford University and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Emily.