Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara
2019 Iowa Poetry Prize
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“In Will Fargason’s first book, Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara, accelerating phrasal momentum and sharp figurative detail merge to put us in the prison made by child abuse and chronic pain. The narrow confines of such experience, its isolating effect, remind me of Elaine Scarry’s descriptions of torture. Fargason’s enactments of what’s happening to him and what has happened warp perception, as when he sees a lake as ‘a window I want to roll down.’ But he can’t. He’s trapped. Entrances and exits are repeatedly inverted, mirrors mirroring mirrors. The speed of the poems and their disarmingly sudden stops keep us off-guard, push us past what we think we know. About anything—pain, death, fear, anger. These poems wake their readers up. What else is poetry for?”—Elizabeth Arnold, author, Skeleton Coast
“Every sense engaged, each filament of intellect glowing, memory fully aflame—it’s not easy to survive such aliveness. So implies poet Fargason in this Love Song. Heights of awareness and passion and fullness are met by counterparts in depths of doubt and despair, of a past that ground down, that haunt writer and reader. This is a book of darkness and hope, of vision and rage. Reading Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara made me feel that I am not alone in the grief and fear of this world—I am part of it and it a part of me, but that also one (I, we, the poet, the reader) is integrally part of something larger: the project of life as something utterly worth living as deeply as possible, paths and pasts and pigs and pain and all.”—Brenda Shaughnessy, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize
In his debut collection, William Fargason inspects the pain of memory alongside the pain of the physical body. Fargason takes language to its limits to demonstrate how grief is given a voice. His speaker confronts illness, grapples with grief, and heals after loss in its most crushing forms. These poems attempt to make sense of trauma in a time of belligerent fathers and unacceptable answers. Fargason necessarily confronts toxic masculinity while navigating spiritual and emotional vulnerability.
From “Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara”:
The silence just before and just after,
and the black eyes as you leapt— "
no protest, no acceptance either.
You ran almost in unison,
a dance without music,
a curtain call,
and the crowd standing knowing this is what happens
once we find beauty:
we must watch it leave.