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Book of the Given

by Rusty Morrison



About the Author

Rusty Morrison is the author of Beyond the Chainlink (Ahsahta Press, 2014), The True Keeps Calm Biding Its Story (2008), which won the 2007 Ahsahta Press Sawtooth Poetry Prize, the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, the Northern California Book Award, and the DiCastagnola Award from Poetry Society of America, as well as three other books. After Urgency (2012) won the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize; Book of the Given (2011) is available from Noemi Press; and Whethering (Center for Literary Publishing, 2004) won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. She has received the Bogin, Hemley, Winner, and DiCastagnola Awards from PSA. Her poems and/or essays have appeared or will appear in A Pubic SpaceAmerican Poetry ReviewAufgabeBoston ReviewGulf CoastKenyon ReviewLana TurnerPleiadesSpoon RiverThe Volta’s Evening Will Come, VOLT and elsewhere. Her poems have been anthologized in the Norton Postmodern American Poetry 2nd Edition, The Arcadia Project: Postmodern Pastoral, Beauty is a Verb, and The Sonnets: Translating and Rewriting Shakespeare and elsewhere. She has been co-publisher of Omnidawn since 2001.

Book of the Given


The paradox of sex: what starts as corporeal turns to the in-corporeality of the interior. What begins as reach toward the other brings us back to ourselves, “eyes closed, seeing night herons.” In this rigorously crafted book, Rusty Morrison observes the fraught and alluring givens of eroticism, the authority of the script we think we are following and the demands of generosity where “expectation must be abandoned.” The script, in this case, is by George Bataille. His passages, fractured and dispersed, are assembled into a text that speaks to us as a lover, not a philosopher, might, that intimately and that audaciously, with all the punning, sparring, avowals and reversals we expect from erotic charge.

Melissa Kwasny

The openness of this sequence is heartfelt and heartbreaking…. Morrison courts those regions of thinking and being that society instructs us to suppress or ignore; and she does so by declaring, “Every object I am/is the rupturing it is built on.” At the same time, she writes, “Pretend instead that words can make a humanness between us.” What started and moved this reader is the calm forceful music, its tonal shifts and use of different registers, with which Morrison proceeded, her willingness to “plunge into the silence that most frightens us.”

John Yau


Rusty Morrison’s quiet, strikingly honest third collection, Book of the Given, navigates grief, love, and fear of estrangement from one’s partner after the death of a loved one.

Kristen Evans

Kenyon Review