An erudite, gripping manifesto of grief.
Written for her son, Oluchi McDonald (1982-2003), Oliver’s poems incorporate prose, theory, and lyric performance into a powerful testimony of loss and longing. In their journey through the borderlands of sorrow, they grapple with violence, find expression in chants, and, like the graffiti she analyzes, become a place of public and artistic memorial. “If memory is the act of bearing witness,” she writes, “then the dream is a friend driving us somewhere.”
“A Toast in the House of Friends brings us back to life via the world of death and dream . . . It is an extraordinary gift for everyone, language pushing beyond itself into the aura of holy graffiti in the big night.” —Alice Notley
“The ceremony of sorrow is performed with a measured, defiant acknowledgment that makes words charms, talismans of the fallen world. This poetry is a holding space, a folded grace, in which objects held most dear disappear to return as radiant moments of memory’s forgiving home.” —Charles Bernstein
“[Oliver's] innovative blend of poetry and prose is an attempt to discover a new, more genuine language, one that can dampen sorrow while bearing witness to unfathomable loss.” —Bookforum
“When Oliver presents her experiences in metaphor-rich language, the reader feels what she feels: incredible loss, infinite pain.” —Library Journal
“A Toast in the House of Friends is written in a free-wheeling hand that evinces distinct originality. Oliver is a rhythmic writer, and an exceptional one at that. She strikes the cadence of each piece so effectively, you can feel the poem on the page.” —Twin Cities Daily Planet
“A haunting tribute . . . Oliver creatively uses words and structure to create her own expression . . . deeply touching.” —Feminist Review