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Written in the devastating aftermath of a partner’s suicide, this unprecedented collection is a restorative memorial act, an exploration of queer time, and a powerful expression of nonbinary and trans love in the wake of traumatic loss.


“suddenly a brilliant red-tailed star / flew across the sky, a sun reversing time, / I crossed one world to another / I stood with her in the other world”


In Your Dazzling Death, Cass Donish courageously summons the poems to witness their own state of “obliteration,” widowed by suicide and isolated as a global pandemic is unfolding. Elegizing their partner, the poet Kelly Caldwell, they insist that the intimate, ongoing conversation with a beloved mysteriously continues after loss.


With searing vulnerability and profound perceptiveness, Donish finds a fierce new aesthetic for the disorientation of grief. “Let me paint this / entire country / the colors of your face,” they write, unearthing the wild and shifting scale of mourning. Donish affirms the beauty of their lover’s trans becoming, recalling when they “sounded out / your new potential names / until we found those syllables / that tasted, you said, like honey.” In the sequence “Kelly in Violet,” the centerpiece of this collection, the shattering experience emerges in conversation with the work of Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio, whose words appear in ghostly traces.


Your Dazzling Death ritualizes the work of grief and subverts linear time, asserting that the future will forever be informed by a monumental love that is still alive, not only in the past, but in an imagined space of timelessness where love and grief are inevitably intertwined.


Advance Praise


“‘I live in a trance, in a trans- / formed valley,’ Cass Donish writes in the opening poem of Your Dazzling Death, a book that transfixes and trans-/forms as we traverse and are ravished by queer time and space, the ‘is-are-were, have-been-is.’ The story is clear from the collection’s dedication, and elucidated as it unfolds—the death, by suicide, of a dazzling, cell-saturating lover, transgender, released into wholeness by her assertion of her real name, Kelly Renee, and racked by bipolar illness, which ‘whipped like a deadly joke. / It sucked on itself like a lemon.’ Kelly’s life and death interpenetrate, as does the lovers’ intimacy with an amplified natural world, lushly surreal, a ‘wild salon.’ This is exquisitely enacted at the book’s hub, an intertextual palimpsest in conversation with Marosa di Giorgio’s The History of Violets, ‘Kelly in Violet.’ It is a virtuosic contemporary myth, a queer Orpheus and Eurydice, its lyric force so courageous that Cass enters Kelly’s death, and must resurrect from it. These poems are so piercingly beautiful, this book such a masterpiece, I could not help but follow.” —Diane Seuss, author of Modern Poetry and frank: sonnets


“A real voice is a true challenge. Such a voice emanates from a speaker with doubts, desires, and convictions, and is made real not by circumstance but by its mind devising—and revising—a path from doubt to conviction, through desire, and back again. Grieving the beloved and galvanized by ‘the question of surviving’ that grief, Your Dazzling Death takes us on this path with a speaker who discovers that becoming real foremost to oneself is a radical task. Propulsive music, precise imagery, the transfiguration of life into timeless wisdom: these poems bring us to a powerful mind that tells us, and will remind us, that fragments ‘fell together only // in how things fell apart,’ and that by living and testing our will to live, we are ‘somehow, already, / in [our] next life.’ Cass Donish is a real voice. Theirs is true, and they will challenge.” —Paul Tran, author of All the Flowers Kneeling


Your Dazzling Death is a moving and powerful elegy, while also being mysterious and perhaps mystical in its invocations of our body’s place in the natural world. But this is not an elegy with consolation. It’s one that bravely and vulnerably pushes us into the depths and stakes of the unimaginable. With clarity and messiness, tenderness and rage, Cass Donish makes unforgettable art out of the impossible intertanglings of grief, desire, bewilderment, and all the love that survives.” —Daniel Borzutzky, author of The Performance of Becoming Human


“An elegy is a conversation that never ends. As if death didn’t exist. As if speech isn’t sometimes silence. As if poetry isn’t often the little that’s left. These poems—brilliant, devastating—are evidence that a woman was once alive, and loved, and that that, the all of it, is now equally over and not over: a complicated truth that gives rise to both excruciating pain and mitigating consolation.” —Mary Jo Bang, author of A Film in Which I Play Everyone and Elegy


“We burn so fast. Cass Donish has written an extraordinary and harrowing collection of poetry where we understand elegy is not read but felt in the rivers moving inside us to their ends. ‘I’m ashamed / of how my mind / will strip things bare // with comparison—’ Donish’s overwhelming work is the poetry we need when we realize there is nowhere to hide. Everyone needs to know about it.” —CAConrad, author of Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return


“Cass Donish’s Your Dazzling Death conjures both the cosmic gardens of Marosa di Giorgio and the planetary expansiveness of Inger Christensen, reminding us that we will need to pack poetry with us into our seedcoats, our heartvalves, or rocketships, as, one by one, then all together, we learn what comes after the end of the world. Your Dazzling Death doesn’t want to be an elegy. It still wants to be a love poem—for the beloved, for the living, for life on this planet, for the life of the planet itself.” —Joyelle McSweeney, author of Death Styles

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