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In the Absence of Clocks
Jacob Shores-Arguello
Other Formats
72 pages, 6 x 9

About the Book

In the fascinating collection of poems, In the Absence of Clocks, poet Jacob Shores-Arguello takes readers on an illuminating voyage through Ukrainian life. Set during the turmoil of the 2004 Orange Revolution, when the country trembled in the wake of political corruption and public outrage, Shores-Arguello’s lyrics of a revolution provide a glimpse into a world at once foreign and familiar.

Throughout the collection are the iconic images and myriad juxtapositions of Ukrainian life. wolves howling in the snow and bakers pounding early-morning loaves of bread; farmlands and cities alike rocked by political transformation; gypsies and protesters; opulent images of Byzantium and the concrete ghosts of Chernobyl—all meet here at the crossroads of East and West, democracy and communism, reality and mythology. As the narrator travels across the Ukraine, he does much more than cross the distances between Horlivka and Odessa or Kiev and the Black Sea. As the tides of change swirl around him, they mirror his own search for a cultural identity and history.


Jacob Shores-Arguello grew up in the United States and in Costa Rica.  He is the recipient of the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship in Provincetown, the Dzanc Books ILP International Literature Award, and a Fulbright Fellowship to Ukraine.


“Shores-Arguello chisels a lyric passage to a world remote in time and circumstance, bounded in the north by the Exclusion Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s dead reactor; to the east, the Dneiper; and to the west, Lviv. This is a twenty-first-century poetics, one world seen through another: Ukraine through the poet’s other ancestral wellspring in the isthmus of the Americas. It is a journey at once forward and back, and throughout we are guided by a ‘map of a ghost country.’ It is a language that dares to ‘cross the impossible river. Life seems what it always was, timeless and eternal. But then the present detonates and we realize where we are and why nothing will be the same. An amazing and heretofore most unexpected book!”—Carolyn Forché


“In these beautiful poems, the borders between times blur, the edges between places dissolve. Shores-Arguello, who grew up in Oklahoma and Costa Rica, writes so convincingly, so lovingly and specifically, of Ukraine, his poems enlarge not only our sense of that world but also—wonderfully, miraculously—our sense of ‘the world beyond that world.’ Here is a poet who ‘lives without boundary.’ This is a book of great scope and of great intimacy, a book of myriad pleasures. It’s the best first book of poems I’ve read in a long, long time.”—Davis McCombs, author of Ultima Thule and Dismal Rock


“This is the sort of book that investigates deeper into the lives of others, to find poetry there, to find meaning, to find strangeness that is all our own. So what do we find here? I found how ‘betrayed by quiet, we do not pray to darkness. We demand.’”—Ilya Kaminsky

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