Salient (Paperback)

Salient Cover Image
On Our Shelves Now
Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe
1 on hand, as of Nov 27 5:01pm


A riveting lyrical constellation centered on the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders Fields and tibetan protective magic

In the foreword to her book-length poem, Salient, Elizabeth Gray writes, “This work began by juxtaposing two obsessions of mine that took root in the late 1960s: the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by the British Army in Flanders in late 1917, and the chöd ritual, the core ‘severance’ practice of a lineage founded by Machik Lapdrön, the great twelfth-century female Tibetan Buddhist saint.” Over the course of several decades, Gray tracked the contours and traces of the Ypres Salient, walking the haunted battlefield ground of the contemporary landscape with campaign maps in hand, reading “not only history, poetry, and fiction, but also unit diaries; contemporary reports and individual accounts; survey information and maps of all kinds; treatises on aerial photography and artillery tactics; and manuals on field engineering and tactical planning.” Out of this material, through a process of collage, convergence, and ritual chöd visualization, Gray has composed a spare, fascinating lyrical engagement with The Missing, in shell hole and curved trench, by way of amulets and obstacles. What is salient rises from the secret signs in song, like a blessing, protected from harm.

About the Author

Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., born in Boston, Massachusetts, is the author of the poetry collection Series | India. Her celebrated translations from classical and contemporary Persian include Wine and Prayer: Eighty Ghazals from the Díwán of Hafiz, The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty Ghazals from the Diwán of Hafiz, and Iran: Poems of Dissent.

Praise For…

Elizabeth Gray’s Salient is a masterpiece, by which I simply mean that it is a work of the utmost poetic accomplishment. Deeply rooted in modernism, especially in terms of technique, it is also one of the most original books of poetry I have encountered in quite some time. 

— Norm Finkelstein

If Salient were fiction, I’d compare it to Sebald or the early experimental work of Ondaatje. Like them, Gray considers rather than presents history. Like their work, her consideration does not lead to a re-presentation of history but, like the chöd ritual, to a dismemberment of the self. In poetry, Charles Olson comes to mind. Gray's individualistic approach to history is what allows her lyric voice to disappear through poetic ritual.

— Devin King

Taking as its title a term that describes both critical insight and a devastating battle of World War I, Salient is a work of lyric investigation and recovery. Elizabeth Gray mines field manuals, trench maps, soldiers’ diaries, and officers’ reports—seeking a language that can confront the horrors of modern warfare. Addressing a guiding query—“how could one imagine this?”—Gray marries painfully precise historical accounts of the Western Front with the language and practice of Eastern protective magic. In so doing, the poet finds the “portions of this evidence which are obviously song. 

— Nancy Kuhl

A remarkable work of poetry. Everything invoked is both crystal-clear while yet
retaining its crystal mystery. There is a magical accession to the delineation
of links and relationships developing in the poem, even the physical
connections (real or imaginary) when moving from soldier to soldier, woman to
soldier; poet to soldier, woman/poet to lover.
— Nathaniel Tarn, from the afterword

Her journey has allowed for the imagery and wisdom of ancient texts and stories to come alive.

— Dana Johnson

Extraordinary: Gray concludes this striking work by praying that the goddesses will do what humans never could: just stay.
— Heather McHugh
Product Details
ISBN: 9780811229241
ISBN-10: 0811229246
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: May 26th, 2020
Pages: 112
Language: English