About the Book
2023 Virginia Literary Awards Finalist
Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist
Deeply phenomenological and ecological, Laura Bylenok’s poems in Living Room imagine the lived reality of other organisms and kinds of life, including animals, plants, bacteria, buildings, and rocks. They explore the permeability of human and nonhuman experience, intelligence, language, and subjectivity. In particular, the poems consider so-called model organisms—nonhuman species studied to understand specific and often human biological processes, diseases, and phenomena—as well as an experience of self and world that cannot be objectively quantified. The impulse of these poems is to slow down, to see and feel, and to listen closely. Language becomes solid, palpable as fruit. Long lines propel breath and push past the lung’s capacity.
Life at a cellular level, synthesis and symbiosis, is revealed through forests, fairy tales, and vines that grow over abandoned houses and hospital rooms. A living room is considered as a room that is lived in and also a room that is alive. Cells are living rooms. A self is a room that shares walls with others. Interconnection and interplay are thematic, and the network of poems becomes a linguistic rendering of a heterogeneous and nonhierarchical ecosystem, using the language of biology, genetics, and neurochemistry alongside fairy tale and dream to explore the interior spaces of grief, motherhood, mortality, and self.
Laura Bylenok is an assistant professor of English at University of Mary Washington. She is the author of Warp, winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize, and the chapbook a/0.
“Living Room is an absolute phenomenon, a complete synthesis of science, emotion, deep ecology, and poetry. Laura Bylenok has given us an astonishing view of life in a post-anthropocentric world.”—Huascar Medina, poet laureate of Kansas and literary editor of seveneightfive magazine
“Chemistry sings, and biology sings, and mitochondria sing, and maize sings, and genomes sing, and the borders of us and not us sing, and living rooms sing, and stories sing, and glass sings, and fur sings, and bodies sing, and sometimes these things sing of pain, and other times they sing disintegration, and other times they sing of beauty or of living or of the bright lens of loss, and most of those times they sing all of these things at once. I am speaking of course of Laura Bylenok’s Living Room which you should read immediately.”—Ander Monson, author of I Will Take the Answer and Predator