In 1989, Killarney Clary published Who Whispered Near Me, her debut volume of poems with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the publishers of Bishop, Lowell, and Berryman. She was 33. John Ashbery said at the time, “Hers is a stunning new voice in American poetry.” The San Francisco poet Tom Clark wrote a beautiful review of the book, declaring that these “startling, unsettling prose poems…vault Killarney Clary into some rarefied company. Baudelaire and Rimbaud come to mind…No writer in English has ever done more breathtaking things with the prose poem than this unheralded newcomer from Pasadena.”
The book was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize and a book that people talked about for years. Now it is being reissued by Tavern Books, a Portland, Oregon publishing house dedicated to reviving distinctive out-of-print books, printing them on Heidelberg printing presses, commissioning original art to ornament them, and promising the authors that they will remain in print.
Clary has published two other collections, Potential Stranger and By Common Salt, books that have kept her name aloft among those who buy books of poems for themselves and share them fervently with others. This passionate cohort will be happy to know that she has completed a new manuscript, Shadow of a Cloud but No Cloud. After you discover her, you’ll know why. We will be running poems of hers from the just-reprinted book, Who Whispered Near Me, today, tomorrow, and Monday. It is available in bookstores and can also be accessed here.
Here’s our first selection of Clary’s poetry:
Every time I step into the bathtub, Theresa, I think of you;
I think of your foot that was burned when you lived in
Michigan. And Claire is on bridges like the Colorado where
her mother fell or jumped. I think of Kathy when I see
sprinklers turning in roses or I hear the name of her brother,
George, Sydne in dime stores. Helen in lavender. Anne
Marie with folded notes. Every time I am hit, Jeffrey, I
can help, Taka. I cross the border, Billy. When I sleep,
large, recent faces repeat what they’ve told me in the past
few days, then you come toward me with names I haven’t
said aloud in years, each one of you faint but completed,
carrying small stories—where you were once, what it was
that happened. And you say, “Here.” You see what I have,
what you might need to tell someone else.