Monica Youn

Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry
One of The New York Times Book Review's Best Poetry Collections of 2016

“[Monica Youn is] one of the most consistently innovative poets working today.”—Tess Taylor, NPR “All Things Considered”

About the Book

The brilliant new collection by Monica Youn following Ignatz, a finalist for the National Book Award

the trees all planted in the same month after the same fire
           each thick around
           as a man’s wrist
meticulously spaced grids cutting the sunshine
           into panels into planks
           and crossbeams of light
an incandescent architecture that is the home that was promised you

—from “Whiteacre”
First coined in 1628, the term “blackacre” is a legal fiction, a hypothetical estate. It is also a password among lawyers marking one’s initiation into a centuries-old tradition of legal indoctrination. Monica Youn’s fascinating, multifaceted new collection, Blackacre, uses the term to suggest landscape, legacy, what is allotted to each of us—a tract of land, a work of art, a heritage, a body, a destiny. What are the limits of the imagination’s ability to transform what is given? On any particular acre, can we plant a garden? Found a city? Unearth a treasure? Build a home? Youn brings her lawyerly intelligence and lyric gifts to bear on questions of fertility and barrenness as she attempts to understand her own desire—her own struggle—to conceive a child. Where the shape-making mind encounters unalterable fact, Blackacre explores new territories of art, meaning, and feeling.

Additional Reviews

Blackacre stands as a gorgeous and intellectually scintillating addition to this esoteric and necessary tradition.”Chicago Tribune

“Youn reminds readers that poetry is essential because of how it says what can’t be expressed through prose.”The Washington Post

“[Blackacre] explores everything from racial identity to intfertility. . . . It’s grim, bleak, and haunting writing, and also beautiful.”Bustle

Blackacre is a marvel to read. . . . These poems are exceptional in their form and content as Youn shapes words into objects of clairvoyant beauty.”The Journal (West Virginia)

“This year won’t bring us anything smarter or sharper than Monica Youn’s Blackacre. . . . Youn sees the contradictions, the injustices enormous and tiny, in daily life and doesn’t flinch — instead, she makes her distinctive music from them.”—Stephanie Burt,MPR

Blackacre is a visit to an in-between, liminal world, with much to think about while we are there.”American Poet

Blackacre is practically a handbook on poetics. . . . There are many standout poems in this dazzling collection. . . . In every generation there is a handful of poets who challenge the way we think about language and how it is used. . . . It is to this distinguished company that Youn now belongs.”Hyperallergic

“[Youn] tightly yet playfully interrogat[es] inheritance and legacy, real and fictional landscapes, and the particular bodily experience of a woman hoping to conceive. . . . Youn's lawyerly analyses—of life, of herself, her feelings, and of language—cut through the poetic to a place that lies between poetry, lyric memoir, and textual analysis.”Publishers Weekly

“Youn effortlessly shifts between many forms in Blackacre. . . . Her sense of poetic lines is keen and clean; her work feels sculpted.”The Millions

“Monica Youn sends into the world a Renaissance woman’s exhibition on the unnerving ways we absorb and resist the whiplash of want snapping in our bellies.”The Critical Flame

“Monica Youn layers her poems with meaning as well as with references that span millennia: from Greek and Norse mythology, to poets like Francois Villon and John Milton, to films like The Passenger. Youn’s haunting poems rewrite and reanimate a landscape that is ultimately entirely her own.”Fork & Page

“The poems in Blackacre are utterly gorgeous. Monica Youn’s voice is nimble and vivid, with the poetic sensibility to fit a planet through a needle-eye. . . . The poems in this book contain a restless lyric energy, whilst maintaining cool narrative composure.”Librairie Drawn & Quarterly

“In Monica Youn’s remarkable series of poems, words and objects are alike subjected to a probing intelligence that is at once philosophical and psychological. The precision of observation at every level is almost overwhelming. The reader cannot relax for an instant, nor does she want to because the unfolding thought, wire tight and tactile as well as conceptual, is so compelling and demanding of a complete attention that is more than rewarded.”—Stanley Fish

“Monica Youn, quite simply, is one of the two or three most brilliant poets working in America today. In these revelatory poems, the reader encounters an exhilarating thinking-through of all that lyric form entails. No one can match her for impeccable distillation; we knew that before. But in Blackacre, we also encounter a more expansive, undefended version of the poet than any of her previous work had led us to expect. This book is a marvel; read it and read it again.”—Linda Gregerson

Blackacre is virtuosic: poems so sharp and fine they cut deep past the body or the self or the mind—they’re needles of rain carving out a canyon. Death is as close as birth, and as far. Youn dazzles with her enigmatic loopholes—the taut noose, the elusive umbilicus, the Möbius qualities of longing and lack and love—which shadow or shape who we are, and what can be called ours.”—Brenda Shaughnessy

“Youn is technically innovative, easily moving from unusual numbered one-line stanzas, to prose poems, to staggered lines, to lines in columns that defy traditional reading. . . . Youn makes us realize that our longings and disappointments are captured in the images of our lives—both the immediate and the recollected.”Houston Chronicle