In his fourth full-length collection, Robert Fanning takes a dramatic leap into a liminal world. In poems both measured and free, both cadenced and incantatory, we follow two marionettes—Professor and Grief—who search for a life untethered and authentic. Crossing from day into night, from wood into flesh, from wakefulness into dream, from ice into thaw, Severance sings of a way—through the narrows of time and body—toward healing.
“Lush with invented compound words and quirky rhymes, the poems in Severance represent a confluence of timeless allegory, hallucination, and rock opera staged in a puppet theater lit by a tinfoil sun. In a collection that describes a sequence of devastating losses from the point of view of an Ishmael-like survivor, Grief serves as a sort of interlocutor, at once companion, instigator, enemy, doctor, prophet, and god. Fanning enacts lyricism-as-salvation in songs ‘all contusion and blue’ which tamp the wound, snip the strings of fate, and open the scarlet curtain into day.”
author of Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and A Girl, and Four-Legged Girl, Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“In Severance, his fourth full-length book of poems, Robert Fanning has severed the strings from the poet as marionette—the poet tied to poetic form, tethered to how a poem takes its shape and moves about on the page—to make a book like no other. Prepare to be undone, unhinged, unstrung by the strange song that is this book. Prepare for its strangeness to rearrange everything you believed a book of poems might be.”
author of the novel Bob, or Man on Boat
“Robert Fanning’s Severance contains a large grief miniaturized and given a proscenium stage and a script. Here, a Professor converses with Grief in between Oldsongs that have the music of a lullaby in a performance of orchards and snow that wants to make an order out of the cold eternity. The metaphors change with each angle, circling and closing in on a message, a meaning in the difficulties of loss. This book helps me see the beauty of a grief master, a puppeteer who uses grief to activate the gone, as if our pain for those we’ve lost is the song that keeps them dancing in the Winterland. It’s not life, but something like it, until we finally, mercifully, cut the tethers and truly let those we’ve lost go on without us.”
author of Saudade, Our Lady of the Ruins, and Rookery