The Man Who Lost His Head

Zach Savich


April 2011

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Winner of the 2010 Omnidawn Chapbook Poetry Prize

Zach Savich’s The Man Who Lost His Head wrestles with the irrational rationality of life as we dimly perceive it. Yet these poems elicit, like the ambiguity of life itself, our most fervent and strange fidelities. There’s such a thing as a willed poetic ignorance: it forms its own epistemological haven, and these poems live in that locale. Thus the poet can ask “Does dark mean blank?” and, in the very asking, expand the horizon of possibility (that is, knowing) by which we recognize the interchangeability of absence and desire. In that dark, we grope into and through the rudiments of our own longing, “melted to its presences.” When Savich writes “I suppose I do believe in nothing,” his words resound as a positive statement of belief.

Elizabeth Robinson, 2010 chapbook contest judge

About the Author

Zach Savich is the author of Full Catastrophe Living, winner of the 2008 Iowa Prize, and Annulments, winner of the 2010 Colorado Prize for Poetry. His most recent book, The Firestorm, is forthcoming from the Cleveland State University Poetry Series.

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This 26-page poem bristles with desire, desire to know the world, but not to allow such knowledge to obscure the experience of being in the world. Savich writes, “Hold on to my arm. / You can’t metabolize desire, thus, we confuse / it with grace. The scar arrives.” There is a tender probing to the voice in this poem, a quiet, contemplative stance that records in compressed yet expansive language the happenings of the day as a backdrop for metaphysical inquiry . . .

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Identity being merely manners,

second-hand grace while soldiers

line for review. Aspiration

is only breath. Sun coming around

like an obsolete horoscope,

sun coming through. Dear. Dared

read only by the phonograph.

What’s not to love? Face,

easily imagined transfigured,

flagrant as a leg in a skirt in cold

weather. Smile to me like you do

to yourself, that apt gladness spreading

eye to eye: quick cut. Sky

the color of the ligamented space

among bones in an x-ray.

Saw-tooth clouds, a human error,

your full name in a registry,

like appliances. You should not know

what you are making, the emperor explained.

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