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Even the Dark

Even the Dark

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Leslie Williams


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)


Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

 The speaker in this collection seeks an understanding of the darkness of suicide and mortal illness in the light of Christian faith. Poet Leslie Williams captures this light in tender and piercing poems that traverse a grieving world where healing is always possible but never assured: “my God can do this, but my God / might not.”

Through restless questioning, the speaker finds a balm for suffering in the divine beauty and mystery of the natural world. Seven prose poems woven into the collection deal with different aspects of a young girl’s life-threatening illness. Five additional poems wrestle with the grief of suicide and the emptiness afflicting those left behind. Other poems in the collection reflect on how to approach daily life while coping with heartbreak and express wonder about our responsibilities in a variety of roles: as parents, as neighbors, as an imagined anchoress, as children of God.

The language remains beautiful and precise throughout, whether the speaker lies “in a gully cracked / with stars” or tells herself, “It’s a handmade raft I live on.” The speaker entreats, as in Psalm 27, “teach me how to live.” Dwelling attentively in the abundance and mystery of creation, the book aims to offer a comfort and peace that might “even the dark.”


Leslie Williams’s first book, Success of the Seed Plants, won the 2010 Bellday Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Image, Southern Review, Gulf Coast, and many other journals. She has received the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


"This is a lovely book. Understated and beautiful poems with a lot of intelligence and stillness and honesty."—Traci Brimhall, author of Rookery and Saudade 

“Leslie Williams maps an uneasy distance to grace and the ‘mainsail beauty’ of life. ‘I love the purple inside oyster shells,’ one speaker admits, ‘but haven’t done a thing to help them.’ This collection offers us toothsome poems, witty and supple in their imagery, as we approach revelation inch by inch.”—Sandra Beasley, author of Count the Waves and I Was the Jukebox

“Leslie Williams’s Even the Dark is about finding the human person in a sometimes dark and unforgiving world. The speaker in these lovely and finely wrought poems finds her sometimes spiritual and sometimes physical voice in some familiar situations: dealing with children, neighbors, strangers on planes, writers’ suicides, children getting sick, going to the supermarket, arranging flowers. Through a range of interesting forms, and intricate syntaxes, the poems show Williams as a master of using the thinking mechanism of poetry as a possible way to peace.”—Sean Singer, author of Honey & Smoke

“The finely worked and astonishingly beautiful poems in Even the Dark are prayers and meditations that ask the most difficult questions about suffering—our own, and others’—without losing sight of the infinite richness to be found in small, daily moments. Williams’s deep thinking about the lives of women—their tending of others, their demons and despairs, their need to remember and reclaim autonomous selves—allows her to render both individual and collective realities. Immense sadness is counterbalanced by intensity of insight; raw loss is transformed by the poet’s spiritually attuned wisdom, worthy of absolute trust.” —Jennifer Barber, author of Works on Paper