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The Renunciations: Poems

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An extraordinary collection of endurance and transformation by the award-winning author of Bestiary

The Renunciations is a book of resilience, survival, and the journey to radically shift one’s sense of self in the face of trauma. Moving between a childhood marked by love and abuse and the breaking marriage of that adult child, Donika Kelly charts memory and the body as landscapes to be traversed and tended. These poems construct life rafts and sanctuaries even in their most devastating confrontations with what a person can bear, with how families harm themselves. With the companionship of “the oracle”—an observer of memory who knows how each close call with oblivion ends—the act of remembrance becomes curative, and personal mythologies give way to a future defined less by wounds than by possibility.

In this gorgeous and heartrending second collection, we find the home one builds inside oneself after reckoning with a legacy of trauma—a home whose construction starts “with a razing.”

ISBN-13: 9781644450536

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Publication Date: 05-04-2021

Pages: 72

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.10(d)

Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for poetry, and the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She teaches at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents

House of Air, Hours of Fire 5


Dear- 9

Dear- 10

Bedtime Story for the Bruised-Hearted 11

Ars Empathica 12

The Last Time 14

Love Poem 15

Continental Drift Theory 16

Cartography as an act of remembering 18

In the Chapel of St. Mary's 19


Dear- 23

Oracle 24

Donika Questions the Oracle 26

The Oracle Remembers the Future Cannot Be Avoided 28

My Father Visits the Oracle Before I Am Born 30

Portrait of My Father as a Winged Boar 31

Sanctuary 33

From The Catalogue of Cruelty 35


Dear- 41

Dear- 42

Sighting: Virtue 43

Dear- 45

Dear- 46

Hymn 47

Sighting: Tarot 48

Dear- 50

Dear- 51


Dear- 55

Self-Portrait in Labyrinth 56

The Oracle Remembers the Future Cannot Be Avoided 58

Self-Portrait with Door 60

Mounting Dead Butterflies Is Not Hard 62

Self-Portrait with Father 64

Apologia 65

The Oracle Remembers the Future Cannot Be Avoided 70


Dear- 75

Dear- 76

Where I End Up 77

I wasn't born haunted 78

Sighting: Almost 80

Sighting: Rockfall 81

Partial Hospitalization 82

A dead thing that, in dying, feeds the living 84

Dear- 86


The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings 89