Tuesday, October 18: Justing Boening will read from his debut book of poems, Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last, which was selected as the Winner of the National Poetry Series. 5pm.
Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last
Mothers masquerading as witches and sepulchral bellhops who reveal themselves to be fathers: In Justin Boening's debut collection of poems, selected for the National Poetry Series by Wayne Miller, nothing is as it seems.
Peopled by figures both uncanny and tragic– lionesses who dance and cry, surgeons who carry with them the trauma of past lives, an opera singer whose notes go awry– Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last uses the language of dreams and of fairy tales to deliver a keenly felt exploration of family, grief, regret, and belonging. Here everything stands for something else. But though the Freudian mother and father lurk behind every sequined costume, continue to strip away the masks, Boening suggests, and you'll find an even more primal absence at the center– Nobody, No One, mortality, death. Beyond that, we find, lies only the truth of our relationships with each other.
Shot through with mournfulness, gorgeously spangled in its language– "a squall of chrysanthemums / and the weird"– Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last is an unforgettable collection about our human failings and the grace we each seek.
"Justin Boening's lines consistently elude our expectations but somehow encourage and fulfill them in doing so. Surprise is a recurring texture throughout these shimmering poems, and no wonder, when 'we changed our laws as often as our laws allowed.' Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last is a stunning achievement." John Ashbery
"Boening's work is fearless, self-deprecating, ironic, sublime, heartbreaking, and beautifully wrought. His poems have a way of taking you off guard, of taking you from a real world of 'celestial certitudes' through a wilderness where the other world hangs in a 'museum / of what is not there,' a world of buskers and strangers, of fortunetellers, of a family gone wrong and a mother gone sour. There are many shadows, and many shades from a curdled past. His muse is an afterlife he swears by but it is, likewise, one he swears cannot possibly exist. This book has a way of having its way with you, and you like it, you surrender to it. Boening asks, in this marvelous first collection, 'Is there another world? Is it this one?' You answer: Yes. It is. It is this one." Lucie Brock-Broido
Justin Boening is the winner of the National Poetry Series for his debut collection, Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last. He is also a recipient of a Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, a Bucknell University Stadler Fellowship, and a Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook, Self-Portrait as a Missing Person. Boening's poems have appeared in Boston Review, Copper Nickel, Kenyon Review Online, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He is co-founding editor of Horsethief Books.