Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The Surface of the Lit World

By Shane Seely

“Here are more wonderful poems by Shane Seely, quietly readable, various, lush with imagery, hammered clean by the mind and spoken from the heart. Inspired by art and myth, poetry and music, the oldest stories told again for us here, now. These are poems of fathers and sons, daily touched by life, awakened new each morning by the clamoring world.”

Dorianne Laux, author of The Book of Men

“This is verse for the hearth and the backpack, poems that never fail to notice in the smallest moment something that might astonish.”

Limestone Journal

“With an impressive combination of intelligence and heart, Shane Seely’s poems ‘[glow] like a candled egg in the single window / of our cell.’ This collection handily negotiates a fine line between the complex beauty of Paradise and the dark turns of hearts and bodies scorched from desire. These poems make me grateful for the sensitivity of Seely’s ear and eye to record so many small graces on this planet.”

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish

“‘So much goes overgrown / if not attended to,’ Shane Seely writes. But this fine book presents poem after poem of clear attention, to the daily world of home and garden and the timeless one of art’s inheritance. There’s wildness here—cougars or foxes we just barely glimpse along the perimeters of our lives, as well as what we see if we look inward. Light and shadow, love and fear. These are elegant, intelligent poems; as patient as paintings, as enduring as myths.”

Elizabeth Dodd, author of Archetypal Light

In The Surface of the Lit World, Shane Seely draws on a wide range of sources—from personal memory to biblical narrative—to explore the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, the ways in which we make meaning of our lives. Seely delves into the ways in which family and environment shape us. Poems ranging from terse, meditative lyrics to more direct narratives examine the relationship between what lies visible on the lit surface and what lies just beneath.

In addition to first-person autobiographical narratives, there are ekphrastic poems; poems that explore narratives from mythology and religion; and poems based on news reports, radio stories, and audio recordings. Regardless of the approach, the central questions are the same: How do we sense the world we live in? What do the institutions to which we turn for meaning—family, religion, art, literature, science—offer us, and in what ways do they fail us? The answers may depend on where we dare to look.

Shane Seely is an assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He is the author of The Snowbound House, winner of the 2008 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, and the chapbook History Here Requires Balboa.More info →

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Retail price: $17.95, T.
Release date: March 2015
88 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: March 2015
88 pages ·
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for The Surface of the Lit World

“Shane Seely is a first-rate poet, delighted by language, alert and tender to the shocks of awe. Because he trusts his reader to think and feel as keenly as he does, he never puts on airs, and his new work is full of amazements. Some of my favorite moments are: the account of family man playing the part of the condemned in the rehearsal for an execution; the description of a member of the audience who leaves a lecture on Hart Crane cursing and saying that the speaker knows nothing about his subject; the description of an insect alighting on a book, this impeccably delivered in one of the old French verse forms; a drunken man’s sudden discovery that the snow-covered field where has driven his pick-up is a frozen pond bursting open under him; and the story of a lock-picking orangutan and his companions in the Omaha Zoo. This book renews my faith in poetry as one of the great depths of pleasure.”

Brooks Haxton, author of Fading Hearts on the River