The Air in The Air Behind It

by Brandon Rushton

$21.95

WINNER of the BERKSHIRE PRIZE
for a First or Second Book of Poetry

‘With an eye roving like a documentary camera, Brandon Rushton delivers a post-wonder diorama of the contemporary non-urban United States in which the vaunted American lawn is artificial; the food is full of chemicals; and “what haven’t we / homogenized.” The freedoms of childhood and adolescence are figured here as a kind of lost, damaged paradise before everyone erases themselves into their adult roles: the contractor, the customer, the detective, the pilot, the bank teller, the embezzler, the broker, the milkshake maker. Rushton’s often interweaving lines serve as a formal objective correlative for our interwoven state in this world, which is composed of both the given and the made; the question of why on earth we have chosen what we have made is quietly fuming in every poem. “Honestly, the people / had hoped for more space / to feel spectacular.” The news about that spectacular feeling isn’t good, but knowing Rushton is out there watching, giving a damn, and writing his beautiful poems is reason for hope.

—Donna Stonecipher

ISBN: 978-1-946482-75-4 Categories: , ,

“It is an ordinary, an orderly world offered to us in The Air in the Air Behind It, and yet this world surprises at every turn, and it throbs with mystifying energy. Every statement made threatens to dissolve into its opposite, every movement is a threat and a thrilling treat. The structure of most of these poems is of the sentence—while line breaks signal giddying turns, turns of phrase and fable both surprising and satisfying: ‘Boredom makes me want/ to spill a secret to each bipedal/ organism passing/ on the street. I have a heavy heart…’ and even this does not describe the compulsions of the book, or the way the language gets restrung like a glittery necklace broken with beads still lost under some of the furniture. Even up and down are unstrung, directions both comforting and treacherous: ‘the sky called/ attention to the crater the people pointed/ and watched the comet from.’ This is a book of consolations, open and inviting and yet as mysterious as fog, and as nurturing to a parched landscape.”

—from the Berkshire Prize Citation by Bin Ramke

“This is a book of water. Of weather. Of a voice languaging thought through a line, a stanza, a page. Space. Through modes of being human—temporary stoppages of energy called ‘father,’ ‘daughter,’ ‘lover,’ ‘commuter,’ ‘scientist,” ‘cashier.’ On micro and macro scales these poems register cycles of coming into one existence and passing into another: ‘A widower on a highway west/ of here faces the idea that his lover, is now, just particles/ his headlights pass through.’ Even massive things are permeable and subject to transformation: ‘The land splits open and the street/ of cars slides single-filed, straight in.’ Brandon Rushton’s The Air in the Air Behind It understands, and leads us to understand, we are bound to each other, and to this earth, because all is change. This is a book that holds such truths, necessary to weathering our time.”

—Karla Kelsey

“In The Air in the Air Behind It, Brandon Rushton’s poems are wild ranging examinations of the untenable present and the unknowable future. They brim with ideas in a sonic rush—so full of vitality and the resilience required to rally the spirit inside a personal reckoning against the backdrop of collective resignation. ‘I came dangerously close to some / partition, some fog I can’t stop / my want to fit inside. In a rush // of mountainous air, I mistake me / for myself again.’ These exhilarating poems embrace possibilities worth hoping for, even in a world that’s over-stimulated and disappointing; gracefully, they make room for the light to get in and fill the empty spaces.”

—Allison Titus 

“With an eye roving like a documentary camera, Brandon Rushton delivers a post-wonder diorama of the contemporary non-urban United States in which the vaunted American lawn is artificial; the food is full of chemicals; and ‘what haven’t we / homogenized.’ The freedoms of childhood and adolescence are figured here as a kind of lost, damaged paradise before everyone erases themselves into their adult roles: the contractor, the customer, the detective, the pilot, the bank teller, the embezzler, the broker, the milkshake maker. Rushton’s often interweaving lines serve as a formal objective correlative for our interwoven state in this world, which is composed of both the given and the made; the question of why on earth we have chosen what we have made is quietly fuming in every poem. ‘Honestly, the people / had hoped for more space / to feel spectacular.’ The news about that spectacular feeling isn’t good, but knowing Rushton is out there watching, giving a damn, and writing his beautiful poems is reason for hope.”

—Donna Stonecipher

Brandon Rushton was born and raised in Michigan. A recipient of awards from Gulf Coast and Ninth Letter, his poems appear widely in publications like The Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, Bennington Review, and Passages North. His essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review and the critical anthology, A Field Guide to the Poetry of Theodore Roethke. After earning his MFA from the University of South Carolina, he joined the writing faculty at the College of Charleston. In the fall of 2020, he began as a Visiting Professor of Writing at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With Josh English, he co-founded the poetry journal Oxidant | Engine.

Additional information

Weight 0.3 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 9 in