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.
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“The speakers of these poems look clear-eyed at the world as it is, not as we wish it were. They unpack their anxieties about the world — anxieties personal, political, and ecological — and meet these concerns with resolve, even grace. In “Dialogues with Rising Tides,” Agodon reassures us, poem after poem, that all is not lost. I think we all need this reminder as we leave this year and enter a new one.” — Maggie Smith
“Seattle-area poet Agodon’s finely crafted poems gleam like prisms, so clear is her language… The everyday grace with which we attempt to live while tumbling through our days finds expression in this sinewy collection which seems to catch us before we fall, assuring us that it’s going to be okay.”—Booklist
“In her piercing fourth collection, Agodon explores intertwined anxieties—a family history of mental illness, looming environmental collapse, the inadequacies of love—with care and understated humor… Despite the tragedies at the center of this book, Agodon captures the universality of dark emotions and offers a collection full of hope.”—Publishers Weekly
“…Poems that are sharp with biting and self-deprecating humor yet tender with care and intimacy… Even with its apocalyptic imagery of burning and destruction, there is the desire to turn toward something greater, to keep on surviving. Dialogues with Rising Tides is both the cautionary light from the ship as well as the flares lit up for the ship to be found, a signal to be acknowledged and rescued.”—EcoTheo Review
“From the first line of Dialogues with Rising Tides, Agodon is transparent about hardship, yet optimistic: ‘If we never have enough love,’ she writes, ‘we have more than most.’ Instead of seeking to outpace anxiety and fear, she lingers with her most difficult emotions in order to better understand them. She wrestles with both personal and global traumas, setting poems about her family history of suicide alongside those addressing climate disaster. She does not promise recovery, but she does offer pockets of hope—moments of wit and humor that inflect the darkness.”—Poets & Writers, Inc.
“We know it is treacherous out there, and we know we could benefit from some sort of guide. In this book, Kelli Russell Agodon throws her light around the roiling waters. These poems are keenly attentive, and witty, and wise. They don’t shy away from revealing the dangers this ship we’re in is heading toward, but they’re also not afraid to tell us that they love us. They’ve been constructed to help us. If you let them, they might save you today.”—Camille T. Dungy, Orion Magazine
“In Dialogues with Rising Tides, Kelli Russell Agodon has crafted poetry that is restorative and necessary, but like all successful surgery, there will be scars, there will be needed rest and recovery after you sit with this collection. These poems are significant and personal, and you will be moved by them. They could change your world. These poems ask us to listen to our bodies, listen to our souls, and take care of both, so that, like Agodon’s speaker in ‘We Could Go On Indefinitely Being Swept Off Our Feet,’ we can ‘trust the thirst we feel is trying to tell us something.’”—The Shore Poetry
“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
“Brava for Kelli Russell Agodon’s Dialogue with Rising Tides. This brave, poignant, heartbreakingly beautiful collection is exactly what we need in these troubled times. On these pages, anxiety and grace intersect with wit, wonder, and imagination. Agodon does not just catalogue her attentions, she engages with them head-on, attuned to a kind of intimacy in all things. There is breath built into each line. Call it evolution, or transformation, or metamorphosis, these poems spark possibilities that will make you want to read and write and live.”—January Gill O’Neil, author of Misery Islands
As featured in:
The Rumpus, “What to Read When You Want to Celebrate Poetry”