Poetry

fwb-2013-catalog-miller-thumbnailMy first book of poems, Without Compass, is now available for purchase! Buy it through the Four Way Books website to show maximum support for a small press that has been very supportive of me. For the press release — including information on setting up reviews or readings — click here.

Praise for Without Compass

Tom Healy, author of What the Right Hand Knows:

What is recorded in the “manual of dangers”? What can be learned from “the book of migration”? In his beautiful, bruised new book, Without Compass, Benjamin Miller presses questions on us about the risks of losing our bearings in the world of feeling. And his poems hurl us into new territory, answers that are somehow both brutal and comforting.

Much like Louise Glück, Miller creates a calculus of ordinary life “riven by static,” absorbed by the “echolalia” of glances, interviews, communion with nature, with presence, with the self. And from this rigorous attention to dailyness, he charts – without compass, without North Star – intensities of surprise, unexpected visits, encounters, attempts at speech. These gorgeous, painful poems map the unpredictable weather of the psyche: torrential, scorching, cold or calm. We would be lost without them.

D.A. Powell, author of Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys:

There’s an ardency and an urgency to these voyages of the human soul as it encounters faith, doubt, joy and longing. The language of these poems fits like a young skin: smooth, playful and resilient. There’s no flab; just lean, muscular lyric poetry that proceeds not through indirection and metaphor but through clear, concise notation of mood unburdened by self-consciousness of craft or subject. […]

Miller has a collector’s eye; he is the sculptor who carves only what he craves; he is also a man of significant engagement with the questions of belief and doubt. “But if illusions offer comfort,” Miller writes, “it is this: I do not need it.” Perfectly at home in the workshop of the mind’s eye, Miller is nonetheless capable of discarding all the tools and making a poetry refreshingly new and exciting in its discoveries. A great book because it has beneath its skin not only a strong heart but a strong, enduring sensibility.

Lytton Smith, author of While You Were Approaching the Spectacle But Before You Were Transformed by It:

Both as it saunters with the prophet’s stride and traipses with the acolyte’s hurry-up, Ben Miller’s precise debut is a work of forceful imagination and elegant verve – a masterstroke of approach and echolocation. These deft, Escher-like poems appear like magical tricks, yet there’s no gimmick to their studied resonance. As he reveals the significance of transitional spaces — borders, twilight, doubt – Miller shows us how we might think, if not more clearly about our lives, then more fully.

Kevin Prufer, author of In a Beautiful Country:

In these imagistic, shimmering, often enigmatic poems, Benjamin Miller meditates on the ways love and mourning both empty and purify us. Here, figures from the Bible express their fears whisperingly into our ears, and images — a folded bit of paper, blinking lights reflected on an airport window — are described with electric clarity. Seen through a car window, a fence becomes a zoetrope “that speed has all but made transparent, the empty space revealed beyond: a flipbook life” and the landscape outside a tent is “the desert, and outside the desert, sand.” Benjamin Miller’s work is nuanced, discomforting, and filled with a fascinating spiritual awe. This is a very fine and thoughtful book.

Further reviews available from Publisher’s Weekly, The Journal, and GoodReads.

Recordings and Readings

On Wednesday, September 17, 2014, I read at the Cornelia Street Cafe as part of the Perfect Sense reading series. You can listen to a recording here:

I participated in the Verdi Festival for the Arts on Tuesday, September 30, 2014, alongside poets Cynthia Cruz and Gregory Pardlo. I hope to post a recording from that event soon.

Poetry Samples

Persistence as an Accident
The absence of news.
Pavement, and the heat of it
Against your cheek: light

In skin-tight circles.
How we danced, like rain
Or bees describing rain;

Returning, we are always
Here, bound, spun, struck,
Startled by the fleetness of

Desire and its counterfeits,
Bested and diffused.
I do not mean to hate you.

In a less mortal world,
Tree would be equal to
Wind, rocking gently

And rustle of leaves
Would never be translated
Crow in its descent.

But here beneath this moon –
Heroically young, pale, stone –
You lie, and won’t stop lying.

 

In the White Noise of the Evening
after Louise Glück

Forget me if I say I’ll leave you: the bashful
and never-spoken-to-again are always
riven by static. I cannot prove
what I can’t believe, while you discourse of
virtue as if it meant something: you haunt me like the open sea,
never a sane thing in a sane face.
Oh, you were ever lady finger, consonant, laying down
a pale second in the morning beside the nightstand,
and the day before, commanding in the tea box. You couldn’t see
us as less used to it, this chatter that inhibits risk
of becoming anything, the Price Club and the Money Tree,
the salt-free chip and thin gravy – were you right to deny
that I could resist? This is
how I cruel you to thought, with this refrain
in the white noise of the evening,
in the creaking ever rocking your chair, the latch
now lifting at the gate.

2 Responses

  1. Frances McArthur says:

    Congratulations, Ben on your first book of poetry. My daughter Beth, with whom you worked at the writing center at Columbia, forwarded this site to me. I remember you fondly from South Side, especially our independent study with Michael Boucai on Christianity. It taught me as much about Judaism as I could possibly have taught you about Christianity. You have made your old English teacher proud.
    Again, congratulations.

    • Thanks so much for writing! I also remember very fondly both you and those days (including, yes, the hours in your office with you and Michael and several copies of John Shelby Spong). Thankfully, the poems have come a long way from the pseudo-Shakespearianisms of my high school angst we once debated the merits of…

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