Wisconsin Poetry Series, Selected by Jesse Lee Kercheval and Sean Bishop
University of Wisconsin Press, March 2024

Cover Art “Red Yucca” by Dornith Doherty & Cover Design by Jordan Wannemacher

Praise for HOST

Lisa Fay Coutley’s riveting new collection, HOST, spirals around the complexities of host as multitude or throng, host as spiritual sustenance, host as living organism upon which a parasite lives. These poems, dazzling in their heartbreak, slice themselves open along the razor’s edge of risk and tenderness. Here, patriarchal violence and the desire to subjugate women is paralleled by the deliberate ecocide of the Anthropocene. Here, the desires and impossibilities of nurturing are pitted against the desires and impossibilities of the synthetic object. Coutley writes: “On this birthday I wish to be invisible / & to make this row full of men / own my body, make them feel / living with a leash no one sees, tethered / to threat.” These are unforgettable, achingly gorgeous, sunflower-studded poems that “scream for a brightness none of us can hold.”
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50

Part elegy to the Anthropocene, part case study of internet-era loneliness, the metaphorical relationships woven throughout HOST’s poignant, timely, and necessary poems are many: mother host to son, woman host to patriarchy, flower host to human pleasure, earth host to people’s waste. Among these layered threats to the body and the planet, there’s a plea for repair, for reclamation, as one speaker asks, “did you hear me / agree to be an island?” Here we have a poet at the height of her craft, skillfully rendering the essential dispatches we all need to hear.
—Trey Moody, author of Autoblivion

Host—what does it mean? This is the crucial question of Lisa Fay Coutley’s searing new collection of poetry. What is it to be a mother hosting sons, especially in a nation in the grip of patriarchal rage? To have a female body forced to host violence and trauma? To be part of the human host destroying our host, the earth? These are deeply lived and deeply felt questions for Coutley, who brings them under her fierce gaze and writes them into poems of great candor and power.
—Dana Levin, author of Now Do You Know Where You Are

Lisa Fay Coutley’s Host pushes Rilke’s closures to new ones: to the edges of the contemplative and fervent: “Would you change your life if you knew corn growing sounds like a limb slipping through a sleeve?” Coutley drops us into the most deft, poignant, and serious stakes to see our contemporary lives clearly, succumbing to the attentive as a possible way through. Inside a human “constant state of ache” is her astute lyric that crafts the many selves one can have inside an image. In this, is a valiant pursuit of an ominous present-state and afterlife for the human, the earth, and the forgone retrievals that carry and haunt: “Body of our bodies, we are becoming strangers.” Here in the poem “Why to Save the World,” we learn how estrangement is at the center of our burning questions. Host is full of these important insights and Coutley anchors us with a dictum that can become a refrain: “When trying to change the world, go that bold.” This collection insists on it, to which I am grateful for the luminosity in her and in these pages.
—Prageeta Sharma, author of Grief Sequences

photo credit: Jacob Paul

Library Journal (by Karla Huston)–“A stunning collection of poems, worth reading again and again.”

Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day–“Holocene Sonnet
Barrelhouse–“Synthetic Love
Gulf Coast–“Anxiety” Gulf Coast Poetry Prize winner, selected by Natalie Diaz
The Missouri Review
Ocean State Review–“ACOA Questionnaire
Terrain–Letter to the Aftermath
Verse Daily–“Why to Save the World
Waxwing–“To the Friend Who Sent Me Goodwill Forks as a Gift