Winner of the 2009 Colorado Prize for Poetry, selected by James Longenbach

“Rob Schlegel has a mind of winter. Like the painter Morandi, who gave him the courage to look at almost nothing for a very long time, Schlegel makes a world of absence and deprivation our world, the world of human mortality feel like plenitude. Imagine wanting to discover the place where you yourself have not yet happened. Now imagine creating this place in a language of hard-won precision a diction and syntax so elegantly austere that the smallest gesture becomes an explosion of possibility. The result is a book that feels rivetingly contemporary while resembling nothing else, a book that seems shockingly intimate while giving nothing away. The Lesser Fields is a guidebook to the world we’ve always known but never truly seen.”
– James Longenbach

“In The Lesser Fields, Rob Schlegel takes a lit match to the surfaces of his words in an act of poetic arson. Thus the poet wanders a landscape whose commonplace markers-fish, sea, trees, birds-are made disquietingly strange: Before my mind / Can shape it, presence / Finishes a thought in my fingers. The natural world of language manifests with an incendiary beauty at once tender and dangerous, reckless and precise. This poetry burns subtly, but the heat is unmistakable.”
– Elizabeth Robinson

“Schlegel’s debut, winner of the 2009 Colorado Prize for Poetry, presents a stark, haunted landscape, as expansive as it is lonesome and yet quietly inviting. It’s a world where the mind projects its solitude onto nature while nature returns the favor. ‘Here and not here,’ says Schlegel, ‘I breath away/ the parts of myself I no longer require.’ A lost lover knits with the natural world after death (‘Tonight, her name is a leaf covering/ my left eye. The right I close/ for the wind to stitch shut with thread/ from the dress she wore into the grave/ where the determined roots of the tree/ are making a braid around her body’); elsewhere another lover is able to ‘fill the bath with everything that has/ Or could ever happen between us,’ imbuing everyday domestic tasks like bathing with symbolic portent in language both straightforward and seductive. A series of haiku-like ‘November Deaths’ ekes out little truths (‘But for the tip of land/ At which the vessel is aimed/ There is nothing to steady its course’) and another series of ‘Lives’ asks, in various ways, ‘Toward what am I drawn?’ Answers are everywhere in this promising first book.”
– Publishers Weekly

About the Author:

Rob Schlegel’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Handsome, Octopus, Volt, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and has lived in California, Montana, and Iowa.

Read an excerpt from The Lesser Fields.