cover image House of Fact, House of Ruin

House of Fact, House of Ruin

Tom Sleigh. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-55597-797-9

Sleigh (Station Zed) blurs the boundary between art and artifact as he lyrically documents war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria in this 10th poetry collection, released concurrently with The Land Between Two Rivers, a new book of essays. He performs feats of empathy in attempting to witness torture from the perspectives of the tortured (“smooth barrels of their AKs press into my back// and against my chest”) and the torturer (“if infantry brings/ you a guy you think is shooting mortars, scaring/ him with a muzzled dog doesn’t seem like the worst trick./ I was willing to try it. I didn’t know it wasn’t going to work”). Accounts of violence do not spare the reader any of the details or questions that might occur to an eyewitness. “What do you know about atrocity?/ the scream of the frozen open mouth showing gold fillings in the molars,” Sleigh writes. He also references Biblical narratives without much hope that Jesus (who he refers to as “what’s his name”) or God (who is addressed as “OMG”) can provide more solace than any of the literary figures, including Phillip Levine and Mark Strand, whom he conjures in several poems written in memoriam. Sleigh brings readers close to trauma with a lyrical treatment from which one wants to turn but cannot. Agent: Lane Zachary, Aevitas Creative Management NYC. (Feb.)