Advanced praise for The Barbarous Century
When we talk about books of poetry being generous, we’re talking about collections like Leah Umansky’s The Barbarous Century. Here are poems that lay out everything they’ve got. Poems that call forth a cast of voices ranging from W.B. Yeats to Daenerys Targaryen to Azar Nafisi to Emily Dickinson to Don Draper. Poems that “spuddle” towards romance, that cherish “the bristle and the fat,” that invite in “another delicate storm of possible.” What fullness, what symphony, what verve Umansky has conjured here! The Barbarous Century is a wild, magnificent achievement.
Leah Umansky is a poet of rare gifts. The Barbarous Century carries the reader into poetic realms that are both brutal and joyous, both light and dark. In luminous lines, these poems succeed in simultaneously unsettling and soothing us. A book for our times.
-Doireann Ní Ghríofa
In The Barbarous Century, Leah Umansky writes, “I want to make and I want the making to do wondrous things.” And in this book Umansky has made something wondrous indeed—something fierce, formally inventive, and unapologetic. In these poems, “even the dark has its blossoms”; these are troubled times, as the speakers acknowledge, and yet we are forging ahead, “taking the best parts of us into a future dawning with art and voice.” I’m grateful that we have this poet’s art and voice to carry with us into that future.
In The Barbarous Century, Leah Umansky writes, "At times, the extraordinary overtakes me." Her lyrical poems convey a striking intimacy that only experience, truth, and craft can offer to those of us in need of unforgettable poetry. The nuanced gaze of Umansky's knowledge is evident, "Sometimes the angels are devils and we are all in a gyre,/but of course there are alternate ways of looking." The Barbarous Century is a feast! Umansky's poetry looks and listens everywhere, remembering. Her voice, intelligent and intuitive, reaches into each poem to investigate the wondrous and terrible condition of humanity, "In love, there is terror, and in terror, there is a-passing,/but in the stone quiet moments, there is a rush of wind./There, is her banner. She is there in the afterglow. See her." Umansky is clear and original in her profound announcement, "I will sing of the heart" and these poems indeed insist upon a necessary, brutal music while writing the songs and bruises our hearts celebrate grieve, heal, and create through memory, loss, and too, always: pleasure.
-Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Leah Umansky’s exploration of internal and external dystopias includes the lyric itself, which she meticulously constructs and deconstructs. A poet’s poet, Umansky gives equal attention to traditional and and contemporary poetic modes, possessing wit, insight, intellect and all manner of aural resources.
The Barbarous Century is mentioned as "March Must-Read Poetry" Book over at The Millions. (3/5/18)