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Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-09-1

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Ebook ISBN: 978-1-938584-23-7

Selected Poem

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On the flight overseas, the rows dotted with isolatos, each
an island of eyes. I was looking (for), looking (like). Ivan
Zhdanov: what outside is a cross, inside is a window. A white
woman across the aisle eyed me the entire flight. Her gaze
widened and neck craned as I (her eyes) slowly removed
(her eyes) my shoes. What could I say? Sometimes I’m
afraid I’m carrying a bomb. That I’m a sleeper and don’t
know when I’ll awaken. I should have said: Identity isn’t
an end—it’s a portal, a deportation from the country of
mirrors, an inflection within a question, punctuation in the
sentence between birth and birth. I said nothing. Later,
visiting a Quaker meeting, I sat among scattered chairs.
On the shores of breathing, all eyes shut, I waded. Silence
our rudder, silence our harbor.

Sand Opera

Winner of the 2013 Beatrice Hawley Award

Sand Opera seeks to rend an aria from the fractured and vertiginous narratives of a culture fragged by an obsession with violence.” —Arcadia

“. . . a profound and terrible calm presides [in Sand Opera]. . . .”—Slate

“The cumulative effect of Metres’ collection, its testimonies and gaps, its forms and disassemblies, is operatic and often incendiary, generally discomforting, and nearly always powerful. It is worth reading, and re-reading, to unearth the buried words.” —

“Though the text engages with the highly-abstract notions which create the fear and anxiety of a persistent state of war, Metres’ work sets itself apart into diving into the specific language of the systems that create and maintain it in addition to demonstrating the human impact and cost of the devices of discourse that ordain the relative ignorance that appeals to the seductively simple wartime narrative—the force of which is difficult to see, hard to remember, easy to forget.” —The Found Poetry Review

Sand Opera is a mind sorting through the information it has and trying to make sense of it. . . . By using the text he does, Metres preserves and critiques it, enacting the ‘vertigo’ he experienced in a way a more traditional lyric is unable to do.” —Lit Hub

“Phil Metres transforms our prostrate sorrow and gracious rage against the banal evil of the administered world into aria and opera. The architecture of horror is brought down to its knees. In Sand Opera we encounter the poet’s inventive vision of art, and also his unforgettable tenderness: his songs to the world of children and to the children of the world. Would Abu Ghraib be possible were we able to truly love our kids? Metres is not interested in the unanswerable. His love speaks for itself.” —Fady Joudah

“Philip Metres deploys the techniques of postmodern poetry, interrupted by stunning lyric, to speak the near-unspeakable: the willed destruction and equally willed survival of those confined and tortured at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; the autodestruction of the perpetrators. Poetry that can so interrogate the human depths attains the height of poetry’s possibility.” —Marilyn Hacker

“Philip Metres is a poet of profound gifts. His unrelenting scrutiny of peace, war resistance, and the military-industrial complex, coupled here with erasures that echo Ronald Johnson’s rewriting of Milton’s Paradise Lost, gives us a bold new libretto about the black site at the heart of this country. Sand Opera is what political poetry must be like today in our age of seemingly permanent war.” —Mark Nowak

“Metres’ collection is at once vibrantly uncomfortable, horrifyingly stimulating, and urgently needed.” —Eric Howerton

“In key ways, Metres represents the violated bodies of those who are part of the story but no longer have the agency to own their own words…. [Sand Opera] is a chilling book that piercingly interrogates language, power and how it is possible for words to embody even in their ghostly and obliterated remains.” —Oliver de la Paz, On the Seawall

“Milosz talks about books that can save nations. [Sand Opera] is just such a book.” —Sean Thomas Dougherty

Sand Opera is among the most powerful, articulate, and accomplished examples I know of [documentary poetry’s] possibility…. Metres’ poetics and his Sand Opera resonate with another recent, staggering, and necessary volume: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.” —Beth Marzoni, Pleiades Book Review

“A bold and unforgettable collection that vividly explores the perils of war and the rippling effects it has on our culture…. Any writer striving to write about current events or who want to take a political stance in poetry needs to read this book.” —Amanda Huynh, Barely South Review

Sand Opera is an important contribution to our understanding of the historical moment, a moment permeated by a long and ongoing ‘engagement’ with the Arab and Muslim world in all its iterations: here, abroad and in the liminal spaces—Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the ‘Salt Pit,’ Parwan Detention Facility—that refuse to be reduced from their inborn and rich complexities.” —Adam Day, Gulf Coast

“Phillip Metres’s Sand Opera is a visually compelling book of poetry that envelopes the reader in the space of war’s victims.” —Irina Nersessova, War, Literature & the Arts

“[Sand Opera] is a very fine book, one that pushes us to an understanding of our own politics.” —Stephen Watt, Banipal (UK)

“The cumulative effect of [Sand Opera], its testimonies and gaps, its forms and disassemblies, is operatic and often incendiary, generally discomforting, and nearly always powerful. It is worth reading, and re-reading, to unearth the buried words.” Earl Pike, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The book acts as a rebuttal… re-attuning us instead to the body’s cry and finding a lullaby in its wake. Metres’ resulting Opera is a carved shard, extracted via erasure out the concealed violence of the military term ‘Standard Operating Procedure.’” —Nomi Stone, Poetry Northwest

“Philip Metres’s poetry collection Sand Opera is complex, an untamable polyvocal array of clipped narratives in post-9/11 (if we are to believe such historical markers) America. And it should have been published years ago.” Kenyon Review