"We are like this, you and I, the trough, and the light and dust inside."
Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers II
"...the unlikely marriage of Charles Bukowski and Sir Philip Sidney..."
“Moon News is a dazzling collection of fully American sonnets. To read these poems is to be both enclosed by the sonnet’s chalk lines and released by the wildness of the content. The form rarely carried such severe cargo: heroin, hospital rooms, poems growing out of trees and out of a person’s open hand…. This is the sonnet repurposed for our time.”
“William Carlos Williams is one of the guiding spirits of these poems. Craig Blais takes one of Williams’s maxims (“There is no need to explain or compare. Make it and it is a poem”) and teases other meanings out of it, until these poems become prayers, and the prayers a way to survive. These are poems of grieving, while in Blais’s hands flowers ‘are unlike ghosts, with their constant // appeals to be noticed, to be something they’re not— / friendly, solid, observable bodies—instead / of being what they really are: barely there.’ The possibility of transformation in these poems is thrilling.”
“Craig Blais is a full-service poet. You see that from the get-go when he writes about flowers and DUIs in the same poem. Descartes, hockey, home movies, William Butler Yeats, split pea soup, Tom Brady: it’s all here, all laid out musically yet with impeccable control. Craig Blais is a night owl. Craig Blais is an astronaut who takes us to the moon and back. Craig Blais is a kid again: he sees the world with wondering eyes in these splendid poems, and we do, too.”
for Moon News
“Craig Blais’s Moon News should come with the warning: ‘objects in poems are more complicated than they appear.’ These poems drill deep beneath their deceptively casual voice to reveal complex insights—the dark humor of Blais’s punch lines have real punch as we laugh through the pain of recognition, or the recognition of pain. Blais might be part Whitman, part Frank O’Hara in his inclusion of the daily scraps of life, but in these wholly original poems, those scraps erupt into stunning conflagrations. Add some W. C. Williams—quoted and riffed on in this brilliant book—and the fact that the poems are all sonnets, and you get a jack-in-the-box jumping out of every one. Blais is the guy who pulls up next to you on the road with his own jumper cables and gets you started when you thought your engine might be dead forever.”
"The history of the moon didn't begin with men
landing on it. But you wouldn't know that
by listening to the news..."
"About Crows is a comically understated title for a book whose long lines hold the rise and fall of Communism, an alternate history of Massachusetts, suburban mythopoetics, and the Beverly Hills of Korea. (And I’m only referencing titles here: the shiny tip of this poet’s epic imagination.) These poems stretch seamlessly across far and local histories. Family, culture, upheavals, influences—the whole wild world seems tethered to the ‘movement arising from stimuli within the body,’ the motion of scrutinizing empathy. Craig Blais is a tremendous talent. About Crows is a tremendous debut."
"Sly wit glimmers in the dark pools of About Crows (in a fake yurt with a fake fire, a woman ‘paint[s] windburn on her cheeks’) but its greatest power remains its unflinching willingness to stare hard at the inventively surprising ways the world has of turning perilous, from our everyday betrayed intimacies to the public horrors of terrorist attacks. Its wisdom isn’t one of homily and easy answers, but of knowing there aren’t answers in a world compounded of good will, sociopathic confusions, and jeopardy, a world where all of us are ‘knee deep in the rushes and lost completely.’ And yet these masterful poems—so richly original in imagery, so ambitious in their range of reference, so deft in the way their near-invisible formal infrastructures control a rampant energy—have made a great grave beauty from that darkness, alive with the dangerous color of crow-sheen. This is a stunning debut volume and is the book about hockey rinks, love motels, cemeteries, art museums, strip clubs, airports, cult indoctrination, hospital wards, the Stations of the Cross, Chagall’s Paris, and romantic idylls that you’ve been waiting for!"
for About Crows
"When I tell her I've started to write a book "about crows,"
she says she's not certain if there ever was a bar across the street from her
nursery school or whether watermelons were sold from a truck there
for only a dollar...."
Craig Blais's first collection of poems, About Crows (University of Wisconsin Press 2013), was a Walt Whitman Award and National Poetry Series finalist before being selected by Terrance Hayes for the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. His second book, Moon News (University of Arkansas Press 2021), was named a finalist for the Miller Williams Prize by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Craig lives in Massachusetts, where he is associate professor of English at Anna Maria College.
Photo by Steph Stevens