"Hilarity transfiguring all that dread, manic overflow of powerful feeling, zero at the boneFlies renders its desolation with singular invention and focus and figuration: the making of these poems makes them exhilarating."James Laughlin Award citation
"Reading Michael [Dickman] is like stepping out of an overheated apartment building to be met, unexpectedly, by an exhilaratingly chill gust of wind."The New Yorker
"These are lithe, seemingly effortless poems, poems whose strange affective power remains even after several readings."The Believer
Winner of the James Laughlin Award for the best second book by an American poet, Flies presents an uncompromising vision of joy and devastating loss through a strict economy of language and an exuberant surrealism. Michael Dickman's poems bring us back to the wonder and violence of childhood, and the desire to connect with a power greater than ourselves.
What you want to remember
of the earth
and what you end up
are often two
Michael Dickman was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. His first book of poems, The End of the West, appeared in 2009 and became the best-selling debut in the history of Copper Canyon Press. His poems appear frequently in The New Yorker, and he teaches poetry at Princeton University.
Few poetry debuts found more attention than Dickman's The End of the West: the difficult working-class childhood he shared with his twin brother, Matthew (also a poet), and the twins' memorable early acting careers prompted a long profile in the New Yorker. Fortunately, the verse itself did measure up: the nightmarish intensities of his terse and fractured lines, their zigzags between religious transcendence and confessional shame, won Dickman a great deal of admiration. This second collection may not surprise, but it won't disappoint. Scarily clipped or deliberately awkward to reflect the extremes he feels, Dickman looks into the depths of his psyche, remembering his dead older brother, other dead relatives, and the omnipresent fact of death: "At the end of one of the billion light years of loneliness// I stuff my mom and dad into a little red wagon and drag them out into the ocean// Waves the color of their eyelids." The poems at their best might frighten their author, and their reader too: "You're going to die anyway and not just because it's natural but because they want you to," Dickman exclaims: no wonder he says, elsewhere, "I want to burn down the forest/ that's been growing/ all night/ in my brain."