Elly Bookman, Love Sick Century (Pre-Order)

42 Miles Press

ISBN 978-1732851160

Expected release date is 20th Sep 2024

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Love Sick Century
2022 Winner of the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award
by Elly Bookman
paperback, 86 pages


What’s so wonderful about this book is the gorgeous precision of its grieving. Love Sick Century works like a slow boil on a flame made out of a sublime capacity for seeing the awful truths inside the worst of us. I mean, Bookman has this capacity, giving Love Sick Century this simmering quality that’s so rare these days it seems almost otherworldly. In poem after poem, Bookman’s keen-eyed speaker shows us what it feels like to be mesmerized by dismay. She looks unflinchingly at what the podcasters and pundits call “our current moment”—“dozens dead again.” She says in one poem: “doom, doom, doom”—and takes the horror there quite personally. That wounding makes the beautiful song that is this beautiful book.
—Adrian Blevins, author of Status Pending

Elly Bookman's Love Sick Century is a heartbreaker of a book. Heartbreaking because it is so tender and true. Heartbreaking because it is of this world and this century. Bookman is a poet of insight in our not always insightful world. I think we are all a little love sick. The fever of being a person can be overwhelming, which is what makes this medicine of a book so important.
—Matthew Dickman, author of Husbandry

Foreword by Ashley Capps

The sinister shadow of the late capitalist war machine falls on everything in Elly Bookman’s debut collection, Love Sick Century. In the unforgettable early poem, “Privilege,” the speaker sunbathes at a public pool beneath a sky filled with the “small whitenesses” of fighter jets rehearsing combat, and wryly notes: "I lie back in my chair […] and try to become browner." The irony is as casual as it is scalding, and from this atmosphere of discomfiting malaise the poem accelerates into something more bleak:

In this sky, planes fly
low and heavy, back and

forth from the base,
practicing war. I’m afraid
I’m finally all right
knowing good things
in me have died.

Is this cynicism? Perhaps. These are poems of airstrikes and warships, active shooter drills and students’ “shadowy backpacks.” (The poet is a teacher). Even in a poem titled “Threatless,” when a male lover’s hand cradles the back of the speaker’s neck, something ominous menaces. But if the tone is one of cynicism, it’s not the snide indifference or stony skepticism of the coarsened realist. Rather, it’s the sort born of profound tenderness, and one that breeds tenderness in turn through its unfailing eye for beauty, mercy, and wonder, in spite of what it’s learned about the world.

In the poem “Vivarium,” with all the earnestness of John Cusack’s boombox serenade in Say Anything, the speaker plays a thunderstorm soundtrack to a pair of pet frogs, hoping to spur them to mate. In the poem “Clamor,” amidst the bombardment of television war news, the speaker recalls a single perfect soap bubble hovering behind the back of a former lover as he washes the dishes. And in “Nocturne,” the same hypervigilance that scrutinizes the lights on the home security system panel remembers too that "somewhere, someone’s job/ is to place tiny bulbs inside/ plastic bodies, that/ someone else’s is to decide/ that firefly color." Indeed, inside the desolate ennui of these pages, fireflies nonetheless still shimmer their plaintive SOS: "here am I./ Here am I." The best of these poems deftly captures a seething disquiet with a mastery I’ve not encountered since Arda Collins’ virtuosic debut, It Is Daylight. Love Sick Century is both distress signal and emergency response; rest assured, help is on the way, if only these poems can find you.

About the Author

Elly Bookman grew up in downtown Atlanta and earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Since 2013, she has worked as an educator while consistently publishing her poetry in some of the most widely-read markets in the country, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Poetry Review. She was the recipient of the first annual Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review and the Loraine Williams poetry prize from The Georgia Review. She teaches middle and high school at The Paideia School in Atlanta.