Winner of the 2013 Colorado Prize for Poetry, selected by Stephen Burt

Scary, serious, beautiful, and new, Catherine Imbriglio’s Intimacy goes far indeed in two directions that might have seemed incompatible before. On one hand, full of adapted facts and figures about how the mind works, about how the psyche fails—partly an elegy, or an obsequy—it participates in real research about the psychology of disappointment, want, and grief. That research lends gravity to Imbriglio’s stretched-out sentences, prose units that double as long, long lines. On the other hand, those lines become desperately beautiful—they have their music too: they are landscapes, orchestrations, and works for the lyre. They “speak on behalf of what things,” “sorting out statistical illusions,” coming after and above silence, ice, patience, melancholy, instead of blocking them out, and ending up with sentence sounds that nobody has made before, in a way that pays homage to real people and real scenes. “When everything you know is like a windlight shifting,” read these poems of “touch touch touch,” of seaside scenes and “mathematical grounds”; they make everything technical seem close to you, and everything real seem clear.

Catherine Imbriglio’s book of intimacy takes us “gracestalking.” Paying fearfully close attention to the psyche, what is revealed is nearly unbearable, but unstintingly liberating. A supple, sentenced work of interiority. A bright and wakeful journey. Hinging on everything: 1,200-year-old lotus seeds sprouting in China, the labyrinth overlooking Sachem pond, and the silence beneath her listening. Tender, touching, and tough. Magical: “When [you] look again, the bars turn pink and float over nearby objects.” She lets us into her emotional weather. She lets us into an idiosyncratically mapped exploration of her own thinking: “Rational discourse won’t tell you if you are slapping an angel around” and “Like it or not, reader, in this venture, you and I have been coupling.” A privilege.

“Matchmaking across dimensions,” Catherine Imbriglio connects, with a clown’s perspective, subjects as far flung as child psychology, sectarian violence in Iraq, inchworms, physics, the death of parents, and US war logs on WikiLeaks. She connects them into a rhythm that creates unsuspected varieties of intimacy, which in turn invite us into a most pleasurable intimacy with language, its possibilities of music and thought.

CATHERINE IMBRIGLIO is the author of Parts of the Mass, which received the 2008 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poetry has appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, Aufgabe,  Conjunctions, and Denver Quarterly, as well as in The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries. She teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University.