On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths

Lucia Perillo

The poems in Pulitzer Prize finalist Lucia Perillo’s sixth book, On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths, swerve and leap and run with the possibility that our final slip on the banana peel will be a giddy ride into the wild blue yonder, even as they acknowledge that this prospect is willfully naive. With subjects that range across history, from epic heroes of ancient Greece, to the beach at Normandy, to the petty competition between an invasive plant species and a strip mall, Perillo’s poems are formally braided while gathering strands of the mythic and mundane. Regarding Lucia Perillo’s poetry, Time Out New York wrote, “Whoever told you poetry isn’t for everyone hasn’t read Lucia Perillo.”

Paperback: $17.00 list price

Bookshop Amazon

Hardcover $ list price

Bookshop Amazon

ISBN: 9781556594151

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781556593970

Format: Hardcover

About the Author

Lucia Perillo grew up in the suburbs of New York City in the 1960s. She graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1979 with a major in wildlife management and subsequently worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She completed her MA in English at Syracuse University while working seasonally at Mount Rainier National Park, and moved to Olympia, WA,  in 1987, where she taught at Saint Martin’s University. For most of the 1990s, Perillo taught in the creative …

Read more


Honored as a “Top 10 Poetry Book” by Publishers Weekly

Selected for the “100 Notable Books of 2012” list by New York Times Book Review

“Perillo has long lived with, and written about, her struggle with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Her bracing sixth book of poems, published concurrently with her debut story collection, takes an unflinching, though not unsmiling, look at mortality. Perillo has a penchant for dark humor, for jokes that stick… [and] despite the joking tone, the stakes are always high.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The poems in On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths are taut, lucid, lyric, filled with complex emotional reflection while avoiding the usual difficulties of highbrow poetry.” —New York Times Book Review

Reading this book “is like listening to a gifted conversationalist: Perillo has a polished way of musing about our world—the micro and the macro—that engages and delights, and is more often than not a lot of fun to read.” —Alex M. Frankel, Antioch Review

“‘Tragedy’s easy, comedy’s hard,’ says the actors’ cliché. Lucia Perillo tries to accomplish both, not only within the same books—On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths is her sixth—but within the same lines. Her poems’ gleeful conjunctions of scenes and weird words insist on the high spirits available in contemporary life, and their angular syntax makes for wild rides; at the same time, those rides, those words, those spirits, all point to the same melancholy end.” —Stephen Burt, The Nation

“Lucia Perillo… examines her life more broadly in the viscerally dark and edgy On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths.” —Library Journal