Before the Great Troubling (2011)

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“Corey Mesler is a Memphis treasure— a gaudily gifted poet-fabulist, he’s our master of the surreal lyric, our River City Rimbaud, the Charles Simic of the Southland.  His poems have wit and soul and refuse to play by any rules save their own.   Open the pages of Before the Great Troubling and this wily book will lie, cheat, and steal its way into the pocketbook of your affections.”  —Bobby Rogers, author of Paper Anniversary

“These deceptively simple poems, in which every word counts, as in haiku, sent me to the dictionary over and over. Use in a sentence: Mesler’s orbicular (rounded out, complete) poems work their sortilege (sorcery, witchcraft) by privity (knowledge of something private or secret shared between individuals, especially with the implication of approval or consent.) I do, I do. And you will, too.”     —Barbara Louise Ungar, author of Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life

“Corey Mesler’s poems have a way of reaching into the past — be it the Fifties, fairy tales or one’s family — for wisdom and existential comfort, striking out with a language that is a prayer within a prayer. Accentuated by meditative simplicity and stirring imagery, Before the Great Troubling is an amazing page-turner that beckons the reader with these perceptive lines: We should all understand that / the way out is the way further in.”   —Arlene Ang, author of Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu



“’My father’s death is a small box,’ Corey Mesler writes in a beautiful poem with that title:

‘In it you will not find his ashes.

Instead look to the stars whose dust

is swept and swept again

over the horizon like the wash of waves.’

His poems, too, are small boxes—compressed, cryptic, full of insight and sorrow, full of wit and tenderness.  Before the Great Troubling offers a quirky, wise, and memorable picture of life in our shadow-filled century.”    —Ann Fisher-Wirth, author of Carta Marina, A Poem in Three Parts


“Pushcart Prize nominee Corey Mesler presents Before the Great Troubling, his latest free-verse poetry anthology distilling critical moments of time into crystallized reflection. From the discourse of memory between souls in the void, to the contents of a “nature jar” collected by a child, to the committee of conflicting thoughts debating within one’s own mind, Before the Great Troubling keenly captures transient instants and promotes lingering reflection on their meaning. Highly recommended for poetry lovers everywhere. “Closer to Home”: The backyard is bathed / in soapy moonlight. / The bean trees gather their / bugs and rattle like / maracas. In the time it takes / for me to step outside / the dog stops its singing. / I whisper from the stoop / the night’s secret name.” —Susan Bethany, Midwest Book Review

“The poems in Before the Great Troubling are direct and spare, remarkable for their clarity. Mesler is not afraid to go for a laugh, but even the funny poems seem to grow from sadness at the root. “I imagine I am always / looking to be stirred / because I am so often shaken,” he writes in “The Observer Observed,” a wry depiction of sexual longing and a typical example of Mesler in his clever mode. Many of the poems leave aside the playful attitude in favor of a more earnest, though never sentimental, voice.”     —Maria Browning, Chapter 16 (Tennessee Humanities)

“Corey Mesler has published another book of poems and, like his previous collections, it is rather uniformly great…His poems are often unabashedly emotional, especially when he’s writing about his daughter or wife and the sense of failure and loss that accompany aging. He does not pull heart strings just for that effect, but his ‘failure poems’ possess a restrained beauty because of the skillful way he never tips over into mere sentimentality. Mesler’s poems are as solidly constructed as any verse found in most modern poetry journals. However, unlike much academic poetry, his poems seem to function as comprehensible narratives, open to both common understanding and also to personal interpretation…Mesler is that oddest of creatures, the poet whose work can be appreciated as expertly written verse and also as a plainly told story. He gives accessible, intelligent poetry a good name.”   —Ross Johnson, in The Memphis Commercial Appeal  (10/9/11)

Cover art by Rebecca Tickle.

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