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Winner of the 2002 Brittingham Prize, selected by Edward Hirsch
In poems that are by turns witty, lush, and unflinching, Acts of Contortion explores the gestures of both hurtfulness and compassion. Whether set in a shelter for battered women, in the midst of a political demonstration, or at the center of an orchestra, the poems pursue the place of language in an injurious world. The political conscience at work is feminist, pacifist, and at odds with itself. Anna George Meek finds that the brutal and the compassionate are sometimes indistinguishable, born of our need to make contact outside of ourselves. These gestures—of music, of touch, of poetry—appear in the poems as the violin, domestic abuse, and words to comfort a woman in pain. The poems argue: difficult yet imperative, the attempt to gesture beyond ourselves is an act of contortion.
University of Wisconsin Press
Publish Date: September 2002
Click here to read poems from Acts of Contortion.
Praise for Acts of Contortion
"Acts of Contortion is a first book of great urgency, a scorching protest against human suffering. I am deepened immeasurably by this work that struggles to make connections and transfigure losses, these beautifully made poems--contorted acts!--that hum with the music of compassion."
"Reading Anna Meek's sensual and eloquent Acts of Contortion is like listening to a great symphony. Fragments from the first bars reappear, subside, disappear, and return us once again to her deepest perception--that the body is an instrument of truth. Sometimes the body is lucky, and expresses itself through the music of the violin, or through the production of passionate speech or poetry. But sometimes the body can do nothing but break open in the face of violence--in birth, in pain, in death. these exquisitely crafted poems are unflinching in their honesty, reaffirming precision over approximation as the human ideal."
"From its opening paean to the human hand, to its final sequence's circus contortionist who 'twists...bearing / down into her chest like a cellist,' Anna Meek's fine first book returns continually to the world of the flesh, its wonders and woes, where 'the skin cries with love,' and the abused seek shelter, and a woman pregnant with twins feels how 'her generous body aspires to open.' But these poems are smart and sly as well as sensual. They attempt to be true to the fullness of our condition, and they leave us feeling ultimately that we've been in...well, good hands."