Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy



“In a culture inclined to mistake opacity for depth and stridency for passionate feeling, Joanna Klink has made a body of work at once utterly lucid and breathtakingly urgent. She navigates between those most suspicious extremes, despair and ecstasy, without ever seeming to be a poet dependent on extremes. The extraordinary beauty of her poems, from the beginning, has resulted from a constantly refined attention to the ordinary and the daily. Taken together, her books are an amazing experience: harrowing, ravishing, essential, unstoppable.”—Louise Glück, American Academy of Arts and Letters Award citation

Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy is a paradoxical wonder: its lean interior cloaks an expansive exterior; its rich solemnity is couched in syntactical and imagistic intensity; its perceptiveness is simultaneously elemental and sublime. Joanna Klink has given us Rilkean elegies haunted by ‘the love you feel for what you lost.’ Her poems illuminate the membrane between loneliness and solitude.”—Terrance Hayes

“[Klink] brings with her a signature sound. Her distinct diction portrays scenes that ring out with the clarity of celestial bells. In deceptively simple constructions, she arranges her moons, her deer, her lakes…to bring us new ways of constructing feeling from landscape…She joins a lineage of Romantic poets, from William Blake and George Byron through Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop, who searched for an understanding of the mind by observing its reflection on the natural world.”—L.A. Review of Books

“Joanna Klink is a radical cartographer. Addressing ‘you who once looked out of my eyes,’ she maps the materiality of her body, its microscopic transformations, and ultimate transience. There is a ceaseless sense of sublimation in this collection as the poet oscillates from finely observed details to broader planetary concerns, stitching together a harrowing, ecstatic metaphysics”—World Literature Today

“Klink’s fourth collection is a passionate but controlled lyric meditation on time, intimacy, memory, and the increasingly imperiled natural world. Reminiscent of (and drawing on) Eliot’s Four Quartets and Rilke’s Duino Elegies, the poems here announce, ‘I brought what I knew about the world to my daily life / and it failed me.’ Klink (Raptus) moves through a litany of personal, human, and civilization-level errors toward a future both unknown and unsure. ‘I knew every occasion—the music rising off the piano, / held in the air in plumes of distraction, sometimes rich, sometimes scaled to terror,’ she writes, acknowledging that ‘No one knew what was coming.’ Klink can be grandiose in her use of pronouns, but her poems of longing never lack beauty (‘your hand catching the bone of my hip / filled our aloneness’). Yet, the real stars of the book, and those most moving in their intensity, are her elegies for the nature that sustains us: ‘Even the greenest city may become a reef. / Take nothing more from each other.’ American poetry sorely needs poets willing to address such large topics in a mode like this.”—Publisher’s Weekly

“Images (moon, sea, snow) recur, and five different poems are titled ‘The Graves,’ but the unity is mainly a matter of sensibility and tone: a lyric sensibility almost painfully alive to beauty, stretched tight by an intellect that simply will not relax—the tone of some of Laura Riding’s poems of the twenties, or of Jorie Graham’s of the eighties, or of the Rhoda sections in Woolf’s The Waves (which provides Klink’s epigraph).”—Ploughshares

“Klink’s new work expresses what Dickinson calls the ‘formal feeling’ that ensues ‘after great pain.’ Like Dickinson, whose most powerful poems seem to occur virtually postmortem, Klink articulates a Keatsian ‘posthumous existence.’ […] One element enlivening Klink’s work is a growing mastery of her art itself.”—Boston Review

“Through a collection of poems quiet in tone but unflinching in conviction, Klink explores the complex relationship between the body and solitude. The energy and drive behind each poem is clear, the result of copious thought and time spent with the world. Specifically, Klink brings into the light a new vision […]: one that declines to engage with the last decade or so of media norms, one in which solitude and its perceived isolation are not weaknesses, but rather opportunities for enhanced human connection, self-engagement, and experience.”—Colorado Review

“As remarkable as the writing is in ‘Noctilucent,’ there are many other poems equal in power. Two six-page works, ‘Stillways’ and the title piece, are tour de force expressions in which the divide between the consolations granted by interiority on one hand and the desire to transcend the self on the other is set in relief.”—Georgia Review

“This is the genius of Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy; Klink hands her readers fragments, fraying thread, scraps of wool, but when we lift our eyes, we are holding a tapestry.”—The Rumpus

“Like her previous work, Excerpts is exacting and intense, and her lyrical mastery is honed with knifelike precision…The poems have an edgy haunting power. It is almost as if there is a ferocity volume that Klink can turn up and turn down throughout the book—her level of control is immense…Her commentary on the planet isn’t driven by politics. It seems to be driven by emotion, and the depth of reaction is compelling to the core.”—Phantom Books

“I have come to Klink’s work since Raptus to find what it is that can be said about the life of loss: what it expresses, what it wants from us, how it might be rendered something like presence, and what if anything can be uttered wholly from within it…I go to Klink’s poems…to be returned to my capacity for sensitivity.”—The Rumpus

“Yet with many turns toward the social in contemporary poetry—both in distribution and subject—it may be déclassé to hone in on a personal solitude. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Joanna Klink remains less popular than her some of her peers. The world—a world of war, disease, and oil spills—is filtered through the self. And the self—in the tragic loneliness of this excellent book—is what one is left with.”—Kenyon Review