Unmark

By Montreux Rotholtz

Winner of the 2015 Burnside Review Press Book Award, Selected by Mary Szybist

“‘To mark’ means many things: to stain, to sign, to correct, to celebrate. Montreux Rotholtz’s Unmark ambitiously means much more, performing and undoing those acts, correcting definitions, understandings, and then unraveling those corrections in a headlong, fearless drive toward what is ‘just.’ These poems leave only what ‘claw[s] to remain’—and astonish with the lushness inside that leanness, where ‘the hot cloud [is] slung/around us,’ and the ‘pale green coronas’ of ‘lit sea-lanterns’ ‘fill the space.’ Lyric traditions—confession, fable, love poem, elegy, fugue, prayer—ghost through these constantly inventive poems and let us hear the strangeness of language, its overabundance and partialness, the way it both dissociates and connects. The beautiful, sensual intensity of these poems is haunted, assured: each one leans toward us, ‘feeling/for [our] fragile pressures,’ to ‘clarify [our] ear.'”

—Mary Szybist

“Once in a while—not often; once in a very long while—one comes across a new poem one immediately recognizes could last forever, a poem that is, in its way, perfect. Montreux Rotholtz’s ‘The Wandering Spider,’ which appears near the end of Unmark, is such a poem. Unmark’s virtues are many—it is wide-ranging but certain, certain but open, open but concise—but perhaps its greatest virtue is that, flush as it is with other poems I wouldn’t want to be without, nonetheless it exceeds itself.”

—Shane McCrae

“Montreux Rotholtz has written an astonishing collection of poems. Its characters traverse terrains that seem to have undergone indefinable and sinister transformative events, in poems that range from accounts of brutality; to series of vivid dream narrations and surreal tableaux; to explorations of (or expeditions into) ideas of girlhood and womanhood. The language is remarkably original, a vernacular of pristine contours and haunting images where we encounter ‘delicate systems of jeweled tripods’; a ‘frilled snake’; a ‘stone-scattered shipyard’; ‘clotted milk in a brine jar’; and girls preparing for guerrilla warfare on a ‘mountainside//already dazzling with frostlines,’ among countless other memorable visions. An hallucinatory travelogue, a gathering together of a Sybil’s hitherto scattered leaves, Unmark is an exciting and beautiful book, filled with pleasures and surprises.”

—Geoffrey Nutter




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