"We are like this, you and I, the trough, and the light and dust inside."
Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers II
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.
Terrance Hayes, Felix Pollak Judge, National Book Award Winner
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!
These haunting, elegant poems are painted with smoke and the colors of the evening sky, and I feel as though I’m peering into rather than merely reading them. Each promises that something is about to happen; the tension they create is irresistible, and as I turn the pages, I find myself drumming my fingers in anticipation and thinking, ‘More, please—more.'
"The snow has thawed in the hill towns and summer is almost here.
When the souls of those who are saved will gather at the shipyards and sail home.
Will you walk with me at dawn to the docks to greet them?"
The Cult Poem
Craig Blais was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. About Crows, his first collection of poems, was a Walt Whitman Award and National Poetry Series finalist before being selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2013 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. About Crows also won the 2014 Gold Medal in Poetry from the Florida Book Awards.
Other honors include an AWP Intro Journals Award and a Best New Poets selection by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. His poems have been published in Denver Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, The Southern Review, Western Humanities Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Massachusetts, where he is associate professor of English at Anna Maria College.