Fifteenth-century theologian and philosopher Nicholas Malebranche said that attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul. The title of this third collection by National Book Award finalist Harrison means both to pay attention to, and to be concerned by. These strange and moving poems take as one of their central tenets that the act of paying attention engenders care, empathy, and love. From the widest lenses—history, time itself, the abandoned machines of space, ancient plagues, and the moon—to the smallest creatures we share the imperiled planet with—mice, wood frogs, birds, bats, and bees—the poems of Reck ask what it means to live and how we can love in our historical moment, beset as we are by climate change, pandemic, war and cataclysms great and small. An early poem invites— Come be with me we have tickets for the end/ of the world
By turns funny, bitter, and deeply lyrical, this is a book of love, attention, concern, and grief.
About the author
Leslie Harrison is the author of two previous books, Displacement (Mariner, 2009), which won the Bakeless prize in poetry, selected by Eavan Boland, and The Book of Endings (Akron, 2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry and a Mary Sawyers Baker artist award. She is a displaced New Englander who lives and works in Baltimore.
Praise for Reck
Leslie Harrison’s Reck emerges from the ecstatic tradition, in which language transcends concrete meaning and becomes visionary. These poems are driven by the engine of litany, the structure of the parable, and the music of the praise song. They are epistolary and elegiac; they entice, leap, charm, and ritualize with the combustible energies of creation and apocalypse. Reck originates from the wisdom of many disciplines—physics, ecology, history, theology, astronomy—all framed by the lyric imperative. Many poets observe and enact beauty. Harrison channels beauty’s DNA, its elemental design, and its wreckage, and through the sheer force of imagination, its unlikely resurrection. Reck wrecked and reckoned me.
—Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets
“Come be with me we have tickets for the end/ of the world,” Leslie Harrison writes in her extraordinary and propulsive new collection, Reck. The book begins with a definition of the title: to pay attention and to be alarmed, setting the stage for the labor of these poems to recognize, catalogue, and grieve the burning world “here in the last America.” Harrison achieves a kind of apocalyptic sublime in her obsessive, gorgeous work, inviting the reader to mourn within her music, and recognize within her imagery, what we’ve lost. “& I want you to follow me/ & into the forest of no more answers no more questions,” Harrison writes. Yes, I will follow, and reader, I hope you will too.
Leslie Harrison has masterfully written a world where only the glittering clauses remain, where the words that came before have disappeared. Each line trembles like the torn half of something lost, like “tickets for the end / of the world.” Reading RECK is to gain admittance into a heartbreaking and gorgeous final act of a world so filled with hope it might, through some miracle, “turn sunlight into children” and begin again.
—Sabrina Orah Mark
[Parable] featured in Orion Magazine