Member News: New Release — The Oratory of Souls

The Oratory of Souls Cover

Spokane’s Lynx House Press has published Corvallis poet Richard Robbins’s seventh book of poems, The Oratory of All Souls. Robbins studied with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees at the University of Montana, where he received his MFA. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Society of America. See his website for more biographical information.

About the book:

No matter their location or occasion, the poems in The Oratory of All Souls attempt to place themselves in the middle of fundamental human concerns, especially those connected to personal and community suffering. Their sources are memory, the historical moment, the local objects that compose each, and the “terrible love of our imagination” that makes them new in language. In these poems, questions become statements in the course of being asked. The speakers map roads into and out of grief, sometimes adopting the role of a lover, father, citizen searching for insight or right-living, only to have whatever hold on identity shift or vanish.

What others have said:

“The Oratory of All Souls might also have been called by the title of one of the book’s most powerful poems, “The Great Litany.” This book, taken in its entirety, is truly a great litany. It encompasses us all. It is moving because it is so inclusive, so unwilling to turn away from the world as it really is in all its aspects, grief-stricken as well as glorious. The book is a kind of prayer, and if we read it as such we will come away from it feeling blessed, inspired, and consoled.”

—Jim Moore, author of Prognosis

“An oratory is a small chapel for private worship but also an act of public speech. The voice in Richard Robbins’ strong new poetry collection is ingeniously both: in awe of the vast sacredness and violence in earthly life, and public, even when speaking of private concerns. The centerpiece of the book is a sequence of ekphrastic poems in response to a real oratory, Sandham Chapel in the UK, a chapel filled with paintings, some of them scenes from an insane asylum that, in a metaphor too startling to not be true, was shared with wounded soldiers in World War I. “This had not been a fable, an allegory, a symbolic drama, an arrangement of surrealistic tableaux,” the poet insists in another poem. Rather, in litanies of resistance to apathy and hopelessness, Robbins speaks to the mysterious reality of being human.

—Melissa Kwasny, author of Where Outside the Body is the Soul Today

Part balm, part prayer, part revelation, the quietly moving and incantatory poems in Richard Robbins’s The Oratory of All Souls, reveal a poetic voice that is masterful, adept, and profoundly compelling. These supple poems unfold seamlessly, with the muscular music of moving water: elegant, clear, fierce. Robbins has the gaze of a painter, with a gorgeous insistence on image, line, shadow, and light. Here, the mysteries and secrets of families, the erosions of grief, are made palpable through the shape of absence. Here, the weight of love has the steady inevitability of a river’s current. In this stunning collection, public and private violence are interwoven with meditations upon the violence and beauty of the natural world with an immense and deeply compassionate grace.

—Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50

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