Tom Sleigh’s brilliant new collection is “full of the wonder and eloquence driving profound poetry” (Los Angeles Times)
You’ve got to put your pants on in the house of fact.
And in the house of fact, when you take off your shirt,
you can hear your shirt cry out, Facts are the floor, facts
are how you make the right side talk to the left.
I’m washing my naked belly clean, and doing it with dignity.
I’m turning around, trying to see the filthiness
that keeps making me filthy.
—from “House of Fact, House of Ruin”
“I hate to admit it, but even the house of fact is a house of ruin,” writes Tom Sleigh in the title sequence of this extraordinary new collection. Very much of our present moment, in which fact can so easily be manufactured and ruin so easily achieved by pressing "Send" or pulling a trigger, these poems range across the landscapes of contemporary experience. Whether a militia in Libya or a military base in Baghdad, a shantytown in East Africa or an opulent mall on Long Island, these subjects and locations resonate with the psychic and social costs of having let the genie of war, famine, and climate change out of the lamp in the first place. The book ultimately turns on conundrums of selfhood and self-estrangement in which Sleigh urges us toward a different realm, where we might achieve the freedom of spirit to step outside our own circumstances, however imperfectly, and look at ourselves as other, as unfamiliar, as strange. House of Fact, House of Ruin is Sleigh’s most engaging and virtuosic collection to date.