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Joseph Massey



By Joseph Massey

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    Joseph Massey composed Illocality in his first year in Western Massachusetts. His austere landscapes channel the quiet shock, euphoria, and introspection that come with reorientation to place. Massey's language fights apathy with grace and sensitivity. Here are poems with their eyes on seasons, plants, sunlight, and animals, all the while looking for stability and the language to describe it.

    A finalist for the 2016 Firecracker Award in Poetry


  • In his lean lines, words dissipate, and sound becomes the thing. These taut, vivid poems lead to the best place a poem can take you: They realign you to the world, and make you see anew.
    Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

    A Massey poem is a revelation of place.
    Stephen Burt, The New York Times

    “No ideas/ but in parking lots,” writes Massey in his fourth collection as he picks up where 2014’s To Keep Time leaves off, this time invoking the specter of William Carlos Williams. He pays close attention to his immediate surroundings, in poems built with a keen ear and in sparse lines that appear luminous on the open space of the page.
    Publishers Weekly

    Nature, reinvented. An abundance of sound. Nimbly drawn images. The poetry of the environment. Massey gives us all of this, as he allows his poems to enter the world nearly naked, wearing only the moment itself.
    Ann van Buren, The Rumpus

    Illocality offers expertly executed poems that stitch scene to thought in a way that gives body to the voice of the poet, that imbues the occasions and locations of the poems with a very physical sense of consciousness, one working, line-by-line, to understand, to be a part of the world. These are austere poems in their feel, but they are rich in maneuvers, and their meditations leave the reader in a deeply satisfied, mindfully mindless, state.
    Ryo Yamaguchi, NewPages

    If you aren’t reading Joseph Massey, you should be. Itself a fresh start, this new book is a good place to begin. Most poets’ body of work presents a worldview. His is a world.
    Ron Stanton, Entropy Magazine

    Illocality is a sequence of exploratory moments composed in short bursts, as Massey attempts to locate himself in the physical and philosophical spaces that make up his new geography, although one that seems devoid of human interaction.
    Rob McLennan

    [Massey’s] minimalism allows words themselves to come forward in new ways, like workhorses happily unhitched from their harnesses, no longer obliged to convey human meaning from one place to another.
    Justin Quinn, The Poetry Society

    Illocality is a rare specimen in contemporary poetry, where the din of loud, sometimes unnecessarily experimental work can drown out such a quiet and contained voice. These poems are subtle, but sharp. Their formal precision—so nimble on the page—gives way to a rigorous thematic investigation into the nature of intellect itself.
    John James, Colorado Review

    In the space of close attention, there is an unending fullness that opens to greater possibility of experience. The result is a book that I will continue to come back to. It moves lightly, and carves its holds.
    Elisabeth Whitehead, Tarpaulin Sky

    Massey probes again presence and absence, the world and language, and the slippage between them. One of Massey’s achievements is his ability to use the language of language, the language of poetry itself to refer, or at least gesture to, the world…
    Jon Thompson, Free Verse

    Massey is among the most topographically responsive of modern American poets. In a book of, in the main, very short poems he offers a series of compelling meditations on being, dwelling, landscape, and form.
    David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement

    The work I read most recently that really offered me personal solace was Illocality, by Joseph Massey—a book that doesn’t seem to have a political bone in its body. And yet: it felt entirely subversive to me, post-election, in the way it seemed driven to record the smallest moments of perception and feeling. We will need such poems in future, as we always have. Protest is crucial, yes, but so is remembering what we fight for: the freedom to freely think and dream and see.
    Dana Levin

  • Joseph Massey is the author of Areas of Fog (Shearsman Books, 2009), At the Point (Shearsman Books, 2011), To Keep Time (Omnidawn, 2014) and Illocality (Wave Books, 2015) as well as thirteen chapbooks and various limited-edition broadsides and folios.

    His work has also appeared in many journals and magazines, including The Nation, A Public Space, American Poet: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, Verse, Western Humanities Review, Quarterly West; and in the anthologiesVisiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams (University of Iowa Press, 2011), Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) and Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (Viking Penguin, 2015).

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

ISBN# 9781940696157 (5x7.75 120pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781940696140 (5x7.75 120pp, limited edition hardcover)

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