2009 National Book Award Finalist,

Rae Armantrout


Wesleyan University Press

Video from the 2009 National Book Awards Finalist Reading

Photo credit:
Nancy Richards Wolfing, 2009


In her tenth volume, Versed, Rae Armantrout applies her signature wit to a singularly difficult subject, cancer, showing it up close and with compassion. She also takes on the dark matter of the universe—that invisible whatzit that outweighs all—as well as hypnotized spiders, flaming mice, and perfect roses. Terse, condensed, these are poems under pressure—open carefully—everything here is concrete, insistently real, and loved by a demanding intellect into new and arresting realities.


Rae Armantrout has always organized her collections of poetry as though they were works in themselves. Versed brings two of these sequences together, offering readers an expanded view of the arc of her writing. The poems in the first section, “Versed,” play with vice and versa, the perversity of human consciousness. They flirt with error and delusion, skating on a thin ice that inevitably cracks. In the second section, “Dark Matter,” the invisible and unknowable are confronted directly as Armantrout’s experience with cancer marks these poems with a new austerity shot through with her signature wit and stark unsentimental thinking. Together, the poems of Versed part us from our assumptions about reality, revealing the gaps and fissures in our emotional and linguistic constructs, showing us ourselves where we are most exposed.


Rae Armantrout is the author of ten books of poetry, including Versed, Next Life, Up to Speed, and Veil: New and Selected Poems. Her collected prose was published in 2007. She is a professor of writing at the University of California at San Diego. Armantrout has been published in numerous anthologies, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry and Scribner’s Best American Poetry of 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2008, and in such literary magazines as American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Chicago Review, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.


Rae Armantrout's Author Homepage at EPC

Rae Armantrout's Wikipedia Page

Rae Armantrout's Papers


From Versed, copyright 2009 by Rae Armantrout and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Click to access an excerpt. (PDF file)