Poetry by Ashley Toliver

September 18, 2018 • 6 x 9 • 80 pages • 978-1-56689-526-2

Generous, penetrating, relentlessly sonic poems that record the creative potential of the body and the boundaries of the self.

From Spectra:

Dear night possessor: your funeral barge rocked tight in the fisting water makes small winter melodies. The light ends a pattern we learned to stupefy by motion or admitting away. A statutory list puts the blame on the hour. You move as I move, whistling measures in salted grass, patient and guarded processions. At night, the line is a current to wade through: older names sifting past the flotsam, the water rising up to here. 

About the Author

Ashley Toliver is the author of the chapbook Ideal Machine. Her work has been supported by fellowships from Oregon Literary Arts, Cave Canem, and the Academy of American Poets. She received her MFA from Brown University in 2013.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


Finalist for the Believer Book Award in Poetry

“Testing the bounds of relationships and identity, Toliver displays her linguistic gifts in poems that resist egotism and startle with their intimacy.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Ashley Toliver’s collection pushes at the elastic boundaries of the self, the domestic and natural worlds, revealing a porousness that could serve us well as an ethic rooted in connection.” —Little Infinite

“Like hands running over a strange surface in a dark room, the language of Ashley Toliver’s mesmerizing debut collection, Spectra, is constantly searching—the phrases, logics, and images coalescing only to disperse and transmogrify: ‘I say to the dark / look / everything is turning / into everything else / moth shuttled inside / an empty glass / paper slid over the mouth.’ In ‘Housekeeping,’ the linked series of prose poems that run through the first half of the book, the poems take on a dioramic quality, tableaux vivants marrying the domestic interiors of a life with the natural world. Toliver’s innovative, open forms and imploring phrases accommodate the linked intricacies of mothering and loss. While reading Spectra I was reminded that feeling one’s way through the unknown can itself become a kind of unparalleled knowing.” —Claudia Rankine

“Here is a book full of careful attention to what has been called the natural world, how it begins in the poet’s own body, ravels into a house, a marriage, and extends out into the continents. Like those of Bishop’s mapmakers, Ashley Toliver’s colors are ‘more delicate than the historians.’ They are also certain, meticulous, and—it must be said—just absolutely beautiful. Reading Spectra makes me feel like Toliver has stitched a new constellation into my mind; she has written that much dark, that much light.” —Heather Christle, author of Heliopause