for Or What We'll Call Desire
Nicknamed "The American Venus,” Audrey Munson became the most famous sculptor’s model in American history during the early 20th century; she acted in silent films and conducted a public search for a “man as beautiful / as myself” before spending her final decades at the “St. Lawrence State Aslyum for the Insane.” Munson’s fame and her long fall provide a through-line for Teague’s passionate, quirky, righteously outraged third collection, where she joins older icons of women’s struggles. The Russian witch “Baba Yaga Appears in Intro to Feminist Theory”; Italian quarries and sculptors create “kneeling angels — / the most perfect marble — with bloody knees.” Teague, who teaches at the University of Idaho, makes her long sentences into exuberant pageants, part sex appeal, part enduring outrage, and by no means devoid of comedy: Strolling Fifth Avenue, she finds time to remark, “Man in a chicken suit, you’re the only one today / not selling beauty.” For the rest of us, she offers not only anger but sympathy, as Baba Yaga does for the dolls she addresses, trapped in a Disneyland exhibit: “What can you do about this world,” she asks, 'but wave and wave and wave and wave and wave?"
—Stephanie Burt, The New York Times
“Because without words what are we // but ourselves—inarticulate as the sky.” Teague’s poems, so often first anchored in singular moments, evolve into mazes of time and space, as with “The Giant Artichoke.” The narrator, thinking of herself as a child, remembers her mother reading highway billboards, her words filling the space left wide by grief. . . . Teague’s poems turn and turn, their lines moving about, I never feel lost in her work. One of my favorites in this accomplished collection is “Sketch: Charcoal and Body on Paper.” The narrator thinks about models—college students like her—“who posed for Beginning Drawing, / insecurity slipped off their shoulders / and draped over chairs.” She thinks about their “faces / when I’d pass them later in the hall, out of place, / too intimate to look at.”
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions,
Shot through Alexandra Teague’s singular new collection is the knowledge that attention is an engine of both violence and tenderness, destruction and salvation. The women of art, history, fairytale, and our own fraught and tenuous present speak out from its pages: the watched have been watching, and they see all of the wretchedness and the wonder in the world around them. We still fall in love with what hurts us, they tell us—a truth at once burden, error, blessing, and necessity. This is an urgent and exacting book about the grace, and the cost, of survival.”
—Molly McCully Brown
A book of wonders and a book of wondering, this is Alexandra Teague’s most ambitious, accomplished, and intimate book yet. It probes deep into the ongoing experience of identity and the transformational powers that grief and anger do and do not have. Teague’s innovative imaginings take us thrillingly close to the ways history and myth continually place and displace each other. She turns still life into carousel, end times into art.
for The Wise and Foolish Builders
"Like the Winchester House, Teague's book is masterfully built. . . . It is one of the most formally impressive collections I've seen this year."
― Dean Rader, Huffington Post
"The Winchester Mystery House becomes a shrine to emptiness, monumentalizing what is missing; it has to be as spectacular as the story it holds, and Alexandra Teague’s The Wise and Foolish Builders functions the same way, spectacularly complex. . ."
―Melinda Ruth, Pleiades
for Mortal Geography, winner of the 2011 California Book Award Gold Medal for Poetry
"...Even more clearly than [Elizabeth] Bishop... Teague alters poetic forms as part of a broader interrogation of structures and their visual representation, maps. Because while Mortal Geography does function as a kind of traveler's notebook, it is more importantly an exploration of syntax in all its forms—the assumptions of English grammar, the intervals of time, the sequence of the human genome, latitudes and longitudes, and, of course, forms of verse. Her work may be in dialogue with Bishop's, but it is broadly and unquestionably contemporary"
― Kristin Black, The Rumpus
for Bullets into Bells
“Passionate, thoughtful, informed and persuasive, this poetry collection is art and activism in its rawest form.”
—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
“This anthology is best considered slowly, paged through with time enough to pause and reflect, to consider these truths, greater than any headline or statistic can deliver.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“While one might argue such a collection runs the risk of poeticizing violence, of indulging nostalgia for a nonexistent peaceful past, Bullets into Bells succeeds in quite the opposite. Instead of romanticizing suffering, particularly a kind that disproportionately affects marginalized groups, the book’s contributors work to ‘untangle’ and communicate what Colum McCann describes in his introduction as ‘the intricate nuances of that suffering.’”
“This is not an easy book to read, nor should it be . . . . Bullets into Bells deserves a wide audience, especially after the recent massacre in Parkland, Florida.”
“It’s remarkable when a book of poetry that is so self-contained, fulfilling its own purposes so completely, but it’s a rare event when any book can be this relevant, this useful to our social conversation.”
—American Microreviews & Interviews
“Extraordinary . . . a stunning call and response of a book.”
for The Principles Behind Flotation
“Teague’s debut novel masterfully chronicles the friction, contradictions, and emotional tsunamis of being an intelligent 14-year-old girl . . . Teague’s ear for dialogue and natural poetic narrative shine . . . Teague is a strong feminist penman to watch.”
―Booklist (starred review)
“A rich, insightful, ambitiously inventive coming‐of‐age tale that will fire the imagination and capture the heart . . . The delightfully quirky details of this setting combine to create a richly textured world that readers will find difficult to leave behind, and the beautifully flawed and fully realized characters will linger long after the final page has turned.”
―Romantic Times, 4 1/2 stars Top Pick
"If you've read either of Alexandra Teague's two acclaimed poetry collections, then you'll already know how fascinating her mind is, and how gifted her pen. What you might not realize—but will discover, as I did, as soon as you crack the pages of The Principles Behind Flotation—is how quickly and completely she can create an absorbing other life in an absorbing other place, how big-hearted she is, and how funny. I loved this novel and the gentle magic of the Arkansas it creates."
"The miracle of Teague’s fiction is the way she shines a light on the ordinary matter of life to reveal its mystery and promise. She builds a town of endearing eccentrics, shaped as much by their own stories as their unlikely odds. At the center of it all is Anastasia Zoe, who navigates the shifting waters of identity, meaning, and desire with indomitable hustle and heart."
UPCOMING EVENTS: 2020
Women Who Confound Expectations: A Reading with Sharma Shields & Kristen Millares Young
Saturday, October 24th 7 p.m. PST
Wishing Tree Book Store, Spokane, WA (virtual event)
Village Books, Bellingham, WA: Reading from Or What We'll Call Desire, with Elizabeth Vignali
Sunday October 25th, 4 p.m. PST
LiTFUSE, Sound Effects: A Conversation and Reading with Brooke Matson
Thursday Sept. 10th
Skylight Books, Los Angeles: Reading with Kristen Millares Young, Brittany Ackerman, & Lory Bedikian
Friday July 24th
Centrum, Port Townsend Writers' Conference: Reading with Paisley Rekdal
Thursday July 16th
Alexandra Teague's first book of poetry, Mortal Geography, (Persea 2010) won the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the 2010 California Book Award Gold Medal for Poetry. Her second book, The Wise and Foolish Builders, was written and researched in part thanks to a 2011 NEA fellowship, and published by Persea in 2015. Her first novel, The Principles Behind Flotation, was published by Skyhorse in 2017, and came out in paperback in 2019. She is also, with Brian Clements and Dean Rader, editor of the anthology Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence (Beacon 2017). Her third book of poetry, Or What We'll Call Desire, was published by Persea in August 2019.
Alexandra was awarded a 2019 Civitella Ranieri Foundation fellowship. She was previously the recipient of the 2014 Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize, a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a 2006-2008 Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. After living, studying, and teaching in states including Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, and California, she is currently an Associate Professor in University of Idaho's MFA program, faculty advisor for Fugue, and an editor for Broadsided Press. She is also a founding member of the interdisciplinary arts BASK Collective. She lives in Moscow, Idaho, with her husband, the musician and composer Dylan Champagne.