The Book of Lamenting by Lory Bedikian


Winner of the 2010 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. "Lory Bedikian's THE BOOK OF LAMENTING begins within a foundation of lyricism: 'On the back of every tongue in my family / there is a dove that lives and dies.' Bedikian recognizes the genuine world of the imagination, one we inhabit but often lose sight of—a world with 'floating hieroglyphics of flame,' where sometimes one must '[e]mpty your pockets / of the noise you carry' and 'count olives / in place of coins.' Wisdom rises up through the losses in Bedikian's poetry. One poem begins: 'The year 1997 rose like a spiral staircase / into a ceiling of darkness.' THE BOOK OF LAMENTING ascends into the darkness in a similar way—bringing us gifts of light and memory, so that the small doves at the back of every tongue might sing."—Brian Turner

These are poems that make a rare intersection between history, the intimacy of memory and an unswerving attention to craft. They are attentive and melodic and we follow the speaker from dark to light, and back again, in poem after poem. This is a wonderful debut collection. — Eavan Boland

 Lory Bedikian’s The Book of Lamenting is a well-made vessel of inherited memory and experience where family becomes a country — a country of the soul that matures on the border of an urbane psyche. Each poem brims with darkness and light that reflect personal and cultural tensions. Thus, the emotional landscape here is rounded and shaped through an imaginative exactness and sobriety. A pure pleasure lives in The Book of Lamenting, but never purely for the sake of art; these fluid, urgent lines engage the humanity we all share through memory.  — Yusef Komunyakaa

From The Book of Lamenting


Marry me before there is more death
in this world, before those we love

turn to ash. Each year, the trees grow
older. Each year, I believe the branches

will be full of bells and veils.
I have bent trumpets into rings,

folded sonnets into doves.
Don’t say we’ll wait

for an autumn of amber leaves.
It may not come. Don’t tell me

I look the way I did the day
my eyes closed with wine. I see my face

in the weathered sky. Marry me
before we become the dry bark

and leaves of those decrepit trees,
faithless that a winter rain will come.

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