Ceremonial, poems by Carly Joy Miller

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Ceremonial, poems by Carly Joy Miller


poems by Carly Joy Miller

Winner of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips
Foreword by Ilya Kaminsky

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paper  /  $16.00
Orison Books
ISBN: 978-0-9964397-7-0
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
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Publication Date: May 1, 2018


In her debut poetry collection, Carly Joy Miller surprises and enraptures on every page. The visceral poems of Ceremonial figure the body at its most sublime and at its most feral, with equal attention. With an unflinching eye, Miller crafts psalms of petition and praise from the raw material of life.


The poems of Ceremonial disturb in such a way as to make us entirely rethink who we are, and where. Ceremonial offers a post-apocalyptic landscape to be navigated by poems that together become a moral compass—the compass Protean, however, ever-shifting, maybe trustworthy, and maybe not. Here, to bless a thing can mean to put an axe to it; the impulse to save what’s broken competes with an impulse to look indifferently away from it; the topography is one of damage—accident or what only looks, or is meant to look, like accident. And yet there is tenderness, too, and vulnerability. The poems variously revel in, regret, and feel strange compassion for the beast of desire—of restlessness—inside us all: “Still I kiss / his jaw wild with yellow // jackets. I shepherd / too long in his furs.” Part of the power of these poems is the coolness of their sensibility, a refusal to back entirely down: “Don’t blink in disbelief,” we’re told at one point, “Kill from the chandelier with a pearl strand. Swing the lights.” I stand persuaded.
Carl Phillips, judge of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize

Carly Joy Miller’s poems are wild, restless creatures. They scare me in the best way, balancing between pleasure and pain, and brokenness and wholeness, with lyricism, intelligence, and disarming composure: “Nothing delights more / than his horns. // How they rouge me.” Reading Miller’s thrilling debut, Ceremonial, I’m reminded of what happens when something breaks: there’s a brightness, more facets to reflect the light.
Maggie Smith

Here is the poet who knows the sensual art of speaking in tongues. […] “To be young and lopsided in faith”—not a kind of prayer one would expect from the young poet in any age, nevermind 2018. And, yet, here it is, the surprise of discovery. The new voice which is instantly recognizable as that rarest of occurrences: the real thing.
Ilya Kaminsky, from the foreword


Ceremonial: Heart of the Trottered Beast

Little elbow of pleasure
in the eating dress.

The animal needs room,

yet beautiful. I never
considered the cathedral

a body needing to break.
I laid the trottered down.

Pestle the eyes, opaque
in vision. As soon as

I take the cloth to clean
the sockets, the organs play

their last bright notes.
Terrible the sounds

of gobbledom.
Slice the gut. Dig

the ticking thing out:
Sacrament. Blood lyre.

I wipe my tongue of it.


Carly Joy Miller’s work has appeared  in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch, and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor at Poetry International and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press. Her chapbook, Like a Beast, won the 2016 Rick Campbell Prize and was published by Anhinga Press in 2017.

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