In Kelli Russell Agodon’s fourth collection, each poem facilitates a humane and honest conversation with the forces that threaten to take us under. The anxieties and heartbreaks of life―including environmental collapse, cruel politics, and the persistent specter of suicide―are met with emotional vulnerability and darkly sparkling humor. Dialogues with Rising Tides does not answer, This or that? It passionately exclaims, And also! Even in the midst of great difficulty, radiant wonders are illuminated at every turn.
“Kelli Russell Agodon’s poems in Dialogues with Rising Tides, her strongest book to date, navigate everyday anxieties and dramatic questions of life-or-death with equal doses of pathos and humor, reminding us that our choices in a world of chaos add up to something, reminding us of the responsibility to ‘care for our ghosts.’ Her interior world is lined with fragments of family tragedy while her outer world confounds her, the rising tides of environmental collapse, not a metaphor but a reality. Her oceanic views of the world teeter on the edge of a cocktail or a gunshot. Funny, sad, and a perfect read for unsettling times.” —Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Field Guide to the End of the World
“'(A)ll objects,’ Kelli Russell Agodon writes, ‘are composed of vibrating anxieties,’ as are these poems, tremulous as a tuning fork, conductive as a lightning rod, teetering between a precarious, hopeful tenderness and dread. There are collisions—’a lightship / crashing against a blue shore of healing’—and gentler dialogues, even poems-as-waltzes, which nonetheless feature inferences of betrayal. The ballast, the queen, is the speaker herself, whose powerful vulnerability is matched only by her wit. ‘At a Cocktail Party, I Am Given a Drink Called, Life is Fleeting and the Olive Is Short-Lived,’ for instance, one in a series of fabulous titles that are poems unto themselves. ‘No one expects perfection, except when they do, which is always,’ she tells us, and I find myself wanting to throw my arm over her shoulder and saying yes, I get it, sister, I know, while we walk down the beach feeling ‘bamboozled / by life,’ discovering the spider building a web in our dead father’s prosthetic leg. This is the book I need right here, right now, as the fires burn and the tides rise.” —Diane Seuss