“Cassie Pruyn’s Lena asks new questions: why we love, why we grieve. We’ve read elegies before, but not like this. A lush and unsparing first book, Lena asks readers to understand love–crucially, a first love, an erotic love–in the context not of a love lost but instead of an identity gained: we must consider not only “was she worth it?,” but also “who has she made me?” Pruyn lets us feel what lovers feel–the magnetism, the physicality, the tenderness, the rage, the wondering–with language both musical and visceral. In these poems, the landscape is a character in itself; the past is as tangible as the present. Pruyn takes us to the “Lost Love Lounge,” we ride in a “car / red as a dragon,” and we observe the beloved “stick herself in the belly with a needle” in the way “she used to attach her cufflinks.” This is love and grief raised to the highest power; it is a debut not to be missed.”
Winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry through Texas Tech University Press, selected by editor Rachel Mennies, Lena is available here and here. For a signed copy, email Cassie at email@example.com.
Love, obsession, devotion, desire, grief—these are the rivers that run through this remarkable debut collection by Cassie Pruyn who uses that most ancient and stately vehicle—the personal lyric—to narrate not just what it is to meet the beloved and to lose her, but what it feels like to experience love, only to see the beloved dissipate and die. The love between these two women is chronicled here with devotion, intelligence, tenderness and a spike of rage. This is a moving, muscular, finely wrought collection and a memorable chronicle of the mind and spirit making beauty and music from the senselessness of loss. – Mark Wunderlich
Like a novel, Lena unfolds its love poems as a story through time and space. This remarkable first book is emotionally powerful, delicate and earthy at the same time; startling throughout (because of the technical skill of the poet); and yet also deeply familiar, resonant, as it captures the twin experiences of coming-of-age sexuality and profound loss. – April Bernard
The poems in Cassie Pruyn’s Lena possess a magnetism owed to an unconstrained heart and intelligence willing to celebrate the pitch fervor of erotic love and to name the unspeakable agony of unjustly losing an estranged beloved to cancer. In lines stylized yet naturally pitched, her poems espouse the kind of dignity gained from loving by way of sacred remembrance; such is the work of any elegy, but here the prestige of language elevates personal anguish to public healing. We relish in the truth-exacting ear of her imagination and the startling intimacy of her mind. – Major Jackson