Sycamore: Poems

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UPC: 9781571314734
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Author: Kathy Fagan
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  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions (March 14, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571314733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571314734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches

Meditative and richly written, this collection of poems by Kathy Fagan takes the sycamore as its inspiration―and delivers precise, luminous insights on lost love, nature, and the process of recovery.

“It is the season of separation & falling / Away,” Fagan writes. And so―like the abundance of summer diminishing to winter, and like the bark of the sycamore, which sheds to allow the tree’s expansion―the speaker of these poems documents a painful loss and tenuous rebirth, which take shape against a forested landscape. Black walnuts fall where no one can eat or smell them. Cottonwood sends out feverish signals of pollen. And everywhere are sycamores, informed by Fagan’s scientific and mythological research. 

Spellbinding and ambitious, Sycamore is an important new work from a writer whose poems “gleam like pearls or slowly burning stones” (Philip Levine).


“It’s hard not to fall in love with this book, with its bravado and vulnerability. Kathy Fagan’s mind is endless with depth and truth―her thoughts like songs, her heart and wit twin birds flying in the air of the pages, landing on the tree limbs of her lines. How fierce and immense to imagine living in her grove of sycamores, hardy, odd, and gorgeous. There, we are bigger than ourselves―we are each other too, living and remembering within each other’s shadows, limbs, sky. Sycamore is a book a reader clutches to her chest, eyes closed for a moment in bliss and recognition.” ―Brenda Shaughnessy

Sycamore is a complex and layered poetic consideration of the mortality of relationships, of the body, of eros, and, most generally, of the moments in time we momentarily inhabit. These are timeless poetic themes, but what Kathy Fagan does with them is stunningly original. From the cryptic and fascinating ‘Platanaceae Family Tree’ that opens the book, Sycamore is erudite and referential and nonetheless consistently welcoming as we navigate Fagan’s inventive structures and nuanced wordplay. This collection gives us a full view of the human heart and mind simultaneously in action.” ―Wayne Miller

“Kathy Fagan’s poems burn like halos, and if sycamores could bow, they would bend to kiss her hands for rendering them in such haunting light, in such daring reach. Don’t miss this beautiful, knowing book.” ―Barbara Ras

“Kathy Fagan’s poems are pitiless, sensual, mythic, and steeped in elucidative mystery. I admire her sleek armor of language and landscape: she may ‘dress defensively’; however, ‘all that pristine weather / and footwear later to discover: dead is still dead.’ Fagan’s sleights of hand reveal yet withhold, out of mercy, hard-won beauty and pain: ‘Sycamore. Sick amour. Seek no more.’ Sycamore is one of the most inventive, vulnerable, and moving collections I have read in years.” ―Randall Mann

"This fifth collection from Fagan burns like ice, with a seemingly cool crystalline surfaces nonetheless hot to the touch. Fagan’s flinty, well-crafted poems abound with texture and verve." ―Publishers Weekly


Kathy Fagan is the author of four previous collections, including the National Poetry Series selection The Raft and the Vassar Miller Prize winner Moving & St Rage. Her work has appeared in the Paris ReviewKenyon ReviewSlateFieldPloughsharesNew Republic, and Missouri Review, among other literary magazines. She teaches at Ohio State University, where she is also the poetry editor of OSU Press, and advisor to The Journal.