Winner of the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize
In this collection of vital, elegiac poems, Deborah Gorlin inventories her dead in urgent acts of recognition and commemoration. Family members—both nuclear and extended—appear in their native stories to reanimate local histories, intimate geographies, and lost times. In a different series of personae poems, Gorlin catalogues dolls and totems within their particular cultural habitats, which range from Africa to the Andes, and imagines their daemonic hopes, dreams and emotions. In a final act of inclusion, she takes stock of her own spiritual hesitations, yearnings, and approximations. She reaches out to the dead by trying to imagine the afterworld–the groundless and eternal spirit realm.
Gorlin’s celebration of both the tangible and intangible–objects rich with life and history and the untouchable that lies beyond–and her exploration of such crazy topics as fingernails, Hebraic trees, and fat, inspired Alice Fogel, NH Poet Laureate, to call this collection a sampling of emptiness and fullness from which we can learn how to “occupy the vacancy.”
Alice B. Fogel
New Hampshire Poet Laureate (2012-2019)
Deborah Gorlin lusts after thingness—even as she knows that its eerie emptiness will disenchant in the end. A wizard of description . . . she focuses her raw wonder on the real . . . until it’s revealed as if new. Poem after poem, the elations and elegies of Gorlin’s language melt in your mouth like hard candies.
2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize judge and author of Museum of Islands
In Life of the Garment, we find Deborah Gorlin’s felt intelligence, where language locates us in poetry’s true place: history living in the heart. In poem after poem, Gorlin clothes us in her fabric of sung words, with characters unique and familiar to us. Her poems give us facsimiles of love, which comfort and gaze upon us. In reading this fine collection, you will see for yourself.
author of Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been
Life of the Garment ranges freely through two worlds: the familiar, recognizable one, and the one that lies beneath its surface, a place rich with imaginative metaphor. Deborah Gorlin is unafraid of the truths and dangers that lie coiled beneath every surface, and stubbornly determined to see everything, even “God, naked, underneath the clothing.” Her poems are full of sleight of hand, disarming warmth, and humor, with a maturity that brings each revelation to full fruition. This is a rich, surprising, and moving book.
author of Tiger Heron
From the “spill of creation,” Deborah Gorlin celebrates and elegizes the “human hullaballoo,” her metaphors a dazzling fest of language and music. She links the spiritual realm to the embodied world, exploring, for example, how dolls serve as effigies and talismans. An exuberant sense of humor illuminates popular culture; a love of art history and folk traditions delights. Gorlin’s great achievement here—a rich rendering of how we ‘dress’ our nakedness—makes Life of the Garment a book of stunning originality.
Deborah Gorlin has published in a wide range of journals including Poetry, Antioch Review, American Poetry Review, Seneca Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Harvard Review, Green Mountains Review, Bomb, Connecticut Review, Women’s Review of Books, New England Review, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000.
Before winning the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, Gorlin won the 1996 White Pine Press Poetry Prize for her first book of poems, Bodily Course. Gorlin received her B.A. from Rutgers University and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. Since 1991 she has taught writing at Hampshire College, where she serves as codirector of the Writing Program. She is also a poetry editor at The Massachusetts Review. Gorlin currently lives in Amherst, MA.