‘I’m not speaking for you, I am speaking to you America.’ The force of this magnificently necessary book fills me with awe. Mormonism—the religion Elizabeth Willis was born into and spent her early years believing—spirals at the heart of this genre-defying project that has pioneered a new American aesthetic. Arcing between poetry, prophesy, and heresy, Willis, like Augusta Cobb, Walt Whitman, and others before her, has reimagined the nation in her visionary exploration of the ‘unrelenting algebra of conquest.’ Liontaming in America is a work of furious love.

Susan Howe

A spiraling, staggering new collection of historical and mythic reinvention—the famed Elizabeth Willis’s first book with New Directions

Available Sep, 03 2024

Liontaming in America

Poetry by Elizabeth Willis

“To disrupt the relationship of predator and prey, to reshape one’s relation to power, is to renovate the lived and living world,” Elizabeth Willis writes in this visionary work that delves deep into the ancient enchantments of the circus and its timeless disciplinary displays. Liontaming in America investigates the utopian aspirations fleetingly enacted in the polyamorous life of a nineteenth-century religious community, interweaving archival and personal threads with the histories of domestic labor, extraction economies, and the performance of family in theater, film, and everyday life. Lines reverberate between worldliness and devotion, between Peter Pan and Close Encounters, between Paul Robeson and Maude Adams, between leaps of faith and passionate alliances, between everyday tragedy and imaginative social possibility. As Willis writes in her afterword to the book, “The repeated unmaking and remaking of America, as a concept and as an ongoing textual project, is not impossible. It is happening all the time.”

Paperback(published Sep, 03 2024)

ISBN
9780811238632
Price US
24.95
Trim Size
5.5x8.5
Page Count
272

Ebook(published Sep, 03 2024)

ISBN
9780811238786

‘I’m not speaking for you, I am speaking to you America.’ The force of this magnificently necessary book fills me with awe. Mormonism—the religion Elizabeth Willis was born into and spent her early years believing—spirals at the heart of this genre-defying project that has pioneered a new American aesthetic. Arcing between poetry, prophesy, and heresy, Willis, like Augusta Cobb, Walt Whitman, and others before her, has reimagined the nation in her visionary exploration of the ‘unrelenting algebra of conquest.’ Liontaming in America is a work of furious love.

Susan Howe

Elizabeth Willis’s prose-poetic Liontaming in America plays a just-the-facts-ma’am tack against pronouncements and interrogatives of an aporetic, testimonial cast. Such are the holes in history. Such is the scribe’s pepper, history’s cracks and cuts, its ravages, wounds, omissions, vatic scat. Willis’s edgewise, angled temper shines throughout the book, giving it a burnished-bronze ambiance that can itself be said to glow. The American frontier, Eliza Snow Smith, Lost in Space, nineteenth-century American feminism, Pocahontas, Robinson Crusoe, settler colonialism, Glenn Strange, slavery, the Nativity, polygamy, Maude Adams, Mormonism, and Paul Robeson are only some of what comes into its purview. This is gritty, capacious work of the first order, a momentous addition to Willis’s formidable body of work.

Nathaniel Mackey

In this vast and masterful book, Elizabeth Willis lays personal claim to the terror unleashed by John Winthrop’s prophecy ‘wee shall be made a story.’ And it’s the wild bravery of that personal claim that sets Willis apart and moves Liontaming into a US poetic counter-tradition of writing collective memory made by Gayl Jones, Joan Retallack, Muriel Rukeyser, and Leslie Marmon Silko, among others. I don’t think there is a name for it, for the self-imperiling impulse to remember not to regenerate through violence. Willis’s intricate text is a family story, is a nest, is a daybook of images in motion as settlers, as pioneers. Extensive archival work thickens her writing, but make no mistake: Willis has given us a gorgeous, mournful and wildly intelligent poem.

Simone White

America has a short history, passionately mixed up like a quilt. You can paw it as the allegorical archive it is, and Elizabeth Willis is a lot of a lion here, circling in the cage of this book throwing up intimate and random pieces of meat to terrify and intrigue us. Many speakers here are distantly related to her own family—they spout broken poem speeches in archaic or free style spelling, stepping out of their own dreams onto a land they did not know and might never understand what it is. Pearl S. Buck proposes maybe there isn’t any America at all. I think Elizabeth Willis is asking all the right questions. Her Liontaming is urgent reading as we stroll into the next awful season of the American dream, still wanting to know ‘Where do I end? . . . On what ground do our bodies meet?’

Eileen Myles

More people should be reading Elizabeth Willis, one of our most gifted and historically attuned poets.

Jennifer Chang, Los Angeles Review of Books

Willis offers the penetrating musings and sometimes fragmented syntax of a contemporary Emily Dickinson but can feel like a spirited surrealist.

Library Journal (starred review for Alive)

Willis has the finest ear for the lyric amongst her generation. The intense beauty of the work is an unblinking testament to the poet’s sense that the stakes for language are becoming impossibly high.

Richard Deming, Boston Review