Poetry by Lightsey Darst

September 3, 2013 • 8 x 9 • 100 pages • 978-1-56689-334-3

DANCE is poetry as performance, precarious and joyful, a three-part journey through hell, earth, and paradise.

A zodiac that builds poems into horoscope machines, Kabbala, botany, the gnostic gospels, fashion, the plague, and the prophetic writings of a high school friend all contribute to a collection that teeters on the dangerous edge between form and anarchy. DANCE is a precarious and joyful performance that takes the reader on a journey through hell, earth, and paradise.

About the Author

Lightsey Darst lives and works in North Carolina.


DANCE is an artful collection of poems that . . . are often raw and unpredictable. There is a grace and beauty in the poems that shows of Darst’s background in dance as the poems pirouette form one subject to another.” San Francisco Book Review

“Like a horoscope, the book is something a reader can return to daily, finding new meaning each time.” Star Tribune

DANCE is filled with movement. . . . [Darst] has the unique ability to express motion with words.” —MPR

DANCE reads like a ballet in three scenes—hell, earth and paradise. . . . Darst pushes the boundaries with this second volume.” —Galatea Resurrects

“A gorgeously thick and complex book of poetry.” Corduroy Books

“A complex meditation on the notions of hell and earth, run through the filter of the local landscape.” MinnPost

DANCE is to The Divine Comedy as Darst is to Dante: heretical. Where once terza rima could take a Christian from hell to paradise, here our secular poet pilgrim must make from montage a map of the contemporary, its unstable terrain supersaturated by information and violent inequities alike. Because empire loves artifice and freemarket capitalism has branded our vernacular, because lyric is too singular and narrative too linear, DANCE privileges none of the above. Each of its unheroic couplets is as ‘pliant as//a swan, cut open & laid out flat to make a sign.’ But what kind of sign? Anarchic, critical, and brilliant, built of many voices, these brave poems give to our radical uncertainty and certain complicity testimony that doesn’t diminish their power to unsettle us. This is an ambitious, ethical book—‘nothing else/does justice to this year.’” —Brian Teare, author of Companion Grasses

“This is the book I hadn’t known I’d been waiting for—until I read it, riveted. Anchored in a shifting history, propelled by a phosphorescent phrasing that subtly startles, it’s a book whose structure echoes Dante while its tone invokes the gothic. The whole demonstrates just how the present is constructed of every past moment, and how those moments still inhabit it, never silent. But it’s above all her handling of language; as rich as the fox furs, comets, and botanical detail she brings to her pages, Darst’s sculpted syntax and charged vocabulary keep the text moving with an uncanny depth to their pacing. It will keep you up at night.” —Cole Swensen