The Book of What Stays


The Book of What Stays

James Crews

The Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry Series

96 pages


September 2011


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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September 2011


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

For any of us, what stays? For the arsonist’s wife who has not yet left? The devout saint trudging another mile in his nail-shoes? The lost couple in their dying moments in a Nebraska blizzard? The old woman who refuses to leave her home in Chernobyl? With an unflinching eye, James Crews gives us the forbidden love, forbidden unions, and secret lives that, whatever the loss, the attrition, the cost, we must acknowledge, must hold, must keep. And here, in Crews’s finely wrought, deeply felt poems, is their testimony.

Author Bio

James Crews was the 2009 recipient of the Prairie Schooner Bernice Slote Award for Emerging Writers. He is the author of What Has Not Yet Left, winner of the 2009 Copperdome Prize; One Hundred Small Yellow Envelopes; and Bending the Knot, winner of the 2008 Gertrude Press Chapbook Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


“Crews’s aptly titled debut collection has staying power galore. In his lyrical, pitch-perfect renditions of regret and loss, this poet bears exacting witness to the parallel world of acceptance and renewal animated everywhere by the dizzying physics of human grace under pressure. In describing a homeless woman’s cart brimming with empty cans and copper wiring—the ‘shining and weighty cargo / of grief she’s headed to redeem’—Crews shows us where he’s going, too. And when he elsewhere promises ‘a fast river you can follow to its source / if you believe the motto here has always been Forward,’ the poet’s hard-won optimism is nothing less than a revitalizing tonic. When all is said, if not quite done, what stays with the reader are these bracing poems: sustenance for the undeniably long haul.”—David Clewell, author of Taken Somehow by Surprise

"This is a marvelous book: a debut collection filled with the voice of an old soul, someone who has battled to claim what he knows. James Crews’ compassionate intelligence ranges wide, looking for stories within the stories of news accounts, saints, and mythological figures, sifting through experience and possibility to find moments of intense clarity and feeling."—Teresa Scollon, ForeWord

"The Book of What Stays is one of the very best original books of poetry I've read in the past couple of years . . . . I feel that while this book may be the one that stays, there's a "part two" quickly on the way."—Michael Simms, Coal Hill Review

"James Crews' wonderful debut collection, The Book of What Stays, is a book that traffics comfortably in the world of sensory experience: in the image, in the sound, in the touch of skin on skin, and his predilection towards scene and narrative is a welcome advance—for this reader at least."—Travis Mossotti, Saxifrage Press

"In The Book of What Stays, Crews has presented us with portraits, rendered as much by absence as by presence. There is an elegant perseverance in these poems that challenges loss and finds strength and beauty in the present, and in presence."—Joshua de Vries, Big Muddy

"[The Book of What Stays is] a portrait of a major talent finding his own powerful voice."—Michael Martin Shea, Colorado Review

Table of Contents


Part I
The Abandoned Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Paradoxical Undressing
Sex in the Rain
Against Seizing
The Birds Have Not Yet Left Chernobyl
Orpheus, Still Singing
A Beginner's Guide to Ice Fishing
An Unexpected Warm Day in Wisconsin
Looking Back
The Farmer's Wife Has Not Yet Left Him
Dare to Speak
After Revelation

Part II
One Hundred Small Yellow Envelopes
1. (Proof)
2. (Total Eclipse)
3. (City of Gold, City of Salt)
4. (The Gold Field)
5. (Wawanaisa Lake: Ross)
6. (Wawanaisa Lake)
7. (Nowhere Better Than This Place)
8. (Letter to Felix: Ross)
9. (Perfect Lovers)
10. (The Raising of Lazarus)
11. (Golden)
12. (Lover Boys)
13. (Estimations: Ross)
14. (Aparicion)
15. (Fan Letter)
16. (Bedroom, After)
17. (Orpheus, Twice)
18. (One Hundred Small Yellow Envelopes)
19. (Last Light)
20. (Assumption)

Part III
What Light Does
With This Kiss
Les Cendres
The Arsonist's Wife Has Not Yet Left Him
Leonardo, Lovelorn in Santa Babila
The Naming
How to Write a Love Poem
Saints Sergius and Bacchus: A Martyrology
Like Angels
Calamus, Not Drowning
The Gardeners
Red-Tailed Hawk, Summer Storm
The Bees Have Not Yet Left Us



2011 Foreword Book of the Year honorable mention in Nonfiction Poetry

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