Department of Elegy

Department of Elegy
Poems by Mary Biddinger
Black Lawrence Press
Publication date: January 2022
ISBN: 978-1-62557-029-1

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Part post-punk ghost story, part Gen-X pastoral, Mary Biddinger’s poetry collection Department of Elegy conjures dim nightclubs, churning lakes, and vacant Midwestern lots, meditating on moments of lost connection. With the afterlife looming like fringe around the edges of this book, Biddinger constructs a view of heaven as strange as the world left behind. These poems escort us from forest to dance floor, bathtub to breakwater, memory into present.

In Department of Elegy, Mary Biddinger examines the hot pink ignorance of youth and the equally vulnerable present. These thrillingly nimble, funny poems empathize with hunger and long for longing. –Jennifer L. Knox

The Talking Heads once asked, “How did I get here?” a rhetorical interrogation that happens at the very point where our past and present lives intersect. Time’s fulcrum, and all its possibilities, even the imaginary ones, are the deep gothic heart that powers Mary Biddinger’s Department of Elegy. This collection savors its sadness but never wallows in it, just as it asks the reader to take all the joys of the world and taste them. If an elegy is a song of mourning, these poems—with their abiding love for the human experience and a generous dollop of empathy—are an invitation to the most rollicking Irish wake you’ve ever attended. They remind us that we come together not only to mourn but also to celebrate the things that ask us to say goodbye. –Steve Kistulentz

Mary Biddinger’s seventh poetry collection guides readers across the dangerous terrain between memory and chaos with confidence, bravado, and—ultimately—hard-won expertise. The speakers’ words themselves sustain a series of exquisite and delicate tensions between utterance and erasure, between form and improvisation, anchored throughout by a series of “Book” poems (“Book of Hard Passes,” “Book of the Sea,” “Book of Misdeeds,” “Book of Transgressions,” “Book of Disclosures,” “Book of Mild Regrets”). The emotional undercurrent of this collection samples such a wide range of life and existence that we are left wondering where time goes and why so quickly, from the ritualistic taste of the insides of gloves, to the realization that once “…your friends have perished under tragic circumstances / eventually they become like beloved characters from books.” –Erica Bernheim

Department of Elegy “Swifted” by Taylor Swift as Books!