by Elizabeth Metzger
WINNER of the 2021 SUNKEN GARDEN POETRY PRIZE
Let me confess to having taken the easy way in. My mind first went to the noun (where we sleep), then to the verb (“to sleep with”). Yours may have too, but the more time you spend with this remarkable book, the more you might come to think of planting, tending, picking. A bed of roses—or indeed, no bed of roses. Elizabeth Metzger’s poems act as both repositories and engines of mystery, of “secrets other secrets / have rubbed away,” yet their mysteriousness never feels coy. There’s a difference between hiding information and asserting control over how it’s revealed. “I stayed off-center,” she writes, and to me this has always seemed like one of the better places from which to view things, but hers is furthermore a poetry that recognizes, as Gertrude Stein put it, “there is no use in a center.” Among Metzger’s many gifts is her ability to describe complicated positions simply, facing down the conundrums of language and perspective to devastating effect: “The children left me. / You say they came.”
—from the Judge’s Citation by Mark Bibbins
The poems in Bed, many written during prolonged bed rest, examine how life’s interruptions—illness or new motherhood, loss or lust—can lead us to intimate revelations with others and with our selves. We spend much of our lives in bed—it is a border, a boundary, a haven, and a trap—and the poems in Bed confront and question the very limits of body and mind. In dream and waking, in sickness and sex, in marriage and birth, in grief and death, the bed is a space that can either mark time or transcend it, a place of perpetual becoming and reinvention. Here is a body trying to remember pleasure amidst the material of suffering, a language trying to keep up with a love that begins before speech. The bed in Bed is often an absent center—a missing mind—around which intimacy must dance. Maybe it is the wanted child. Maybe it is the mourned self. Maybe it is your mind these poems must be tucked into to be kept or come alive.
“Bed… has more teeth, performing a kind of bait and switch as it dispenses with broad categories of affect in favor of this astonishing power of tearing apart and then putting back together again…” — Ben Tripp, Heavy Feather Review
Published: November 2021
|Dimensions||5.5 × 8.5 in|
Click here to download a suite of curricular resources for BED, designed by Faith Earl.