A Semblance: Selected and New Poems (1975-2007)

Laura Moriarty


September 2007



A Semblance: Selected and New Poems (1975-2007) is the first selected compilation of poetry by Laura Moriarty. Drawn from her previous poetry collections and including new work, this selected demonstrates Moriarty’s ability to make each lyric phrase into a portal where we find ourselves turning at once in two directions—backward, to probe the newly exposed limits in our old ways of understanding, and forward to experience a more evolved and involved attention to our world through the animated potentials she offers us. Whether examining the historically gendered gaze of art or of culture’s narratives and their impact upon the individual, or the symmetries that interlink to figure our social and political horizons, or the destructive forces that both expose and explode our meaning of self, Moriarty’s poems offer the expansive pleasure of revelation in each finely distilled articulation. This selected includes an introduction by the esteemed poet Norma Cole, whose awards include a recent Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant.

For those of us who have eagerly followed Laura Moriarty’s work, this selection represents an invaluable overview of the multiple paths she has taken across the years. For those new to it, here is an opportunity to come to know a body of relentlessly exploratory writing in both verse and prose, one that constantly reexamines and reinvents genres and forms. Emanating from “one whose experience retains heat,” A Semblance determinedly probes the tensile shapes of poetic thought.

Michael Palmer

Laura Moriarity is a renegade artist of the first order. Where she was she is no longer and in the transitioning the thing we call art or love flecks off. In faultless volumes of her work–Rondeaux, Symmetry, Cunning–she glances off the hidden rules of her “made place.” “The archivist eyes them evaluatively. She is not the same man anymore.”

Jeanne Heuving

About the Author

Laura Moriarty has published eleven books of poetry, a short novel, Cunning (Sputyen Duyvil 2000), and a novel of science fiction, Ultravioleta (Atelos 2006). She has been a very active member of the Bay Area community for 25 years, has traveled extensively to do readings and workshops, has had her work translated into half a dozen languages, has taught at Mills College, Naropa University and Otis Art Institute, and has been a nonprofit literary organization director for 20 of those years. Her work in nonprofit literary organizations include her current position as the Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution, and her previous position as the Archives Director for the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University from 1986 – 1997. She received a Poetry Center Book Award in 1984 for Persia (Chance Additions). She has also been awarded a Gerbode Foundation grant, a residency at the Foundation Royaumont in France and a New Langton Arts Award in Literature.

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Moriarty, who is the deputy director at Small Press Distribution, studied with Robert Duncan, and is closely associated with Bay Area poet Norma Cole (who provides an introduction). She has the former’s baroquely elegant turns of mind and the latter’s searching fluidity, but her subject matter—roughly, how one’s self-perceptions form a language that one is always comparing to one’s experiences—is all her own, and her lines have a tensile gorgeousness unlike anyone else’s…

Publishers Weekly

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Waking from
Sleep a Thousand Miles Thick

The blue crack as the snow
Unfastens the house
Sheer moon section white leaf
eyes beaming drip
with salt-heavy
silver coin sleep
Heated air tired
seeps out of flesh
I wake each morning velvet
eared from night’s wine
Listen for the child
Our animals nestling
Count themselves mumble
Calm stars fading
Energy bristles from tight
Foreheads, eyes
Violet shadows like spirits
Leap between house and barn
The day’s whir begins
The sun’s lip
enfolds the horizon

Blouse crumpled my
breasts unbuttoned into sleeping
lips The spirits handspring October
white apple smell nostril
quivers Sugar taste
The dream pours into the listening
room Petals bunch into
eyes closed against stark
light golden, speeding Our room
winged mother-of-pearl within its
tough clam bright car merging
onto a swift freeway at dawn

Using 44 words from
Bruce Conner’s “Tables and Cards”
Hansen-Fuller Gallery Nov 1975

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