Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Graywolf Press is proud to announce a series of events throughout 2024 celebrating fifty years of adventurous publishing, featuring debut and longstanding authors and taking place in New York City, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago, and Tucson. More here

Book Title

Sad Little Breathing Machine

Author 1
Matthea Harvey
Units are the engines
I understand best.

One betrayal, two.
Merrily, merrily, merrily.
—from "Introduction to the World"

In Sad Little Breathing Machine, Matthea Harvey explores the strange and intricate mechanics of human systems-of the body, of thought, of language itself. These are the engines, like poetry, that propel both our comprehension and misunderstanding. "If you're lucky," Harvey writes, "after a number of / revolutions, you'll / feel something catch."

"I pictured myself arriving at an amusement park, only none of the rides are familiar. I considered running away. I could break my neck or be catapulted into the sky. I might never be seen again. It's only poetry, I reminded myself, and climbed on board. I'm tossed and bucked and jabbed and lashed and flipped. I'm having a nearly insane amount of fun, and I don't want it to
ever end."—James Tate

Share Title

List Price
Publication Date
Publication Date
Trim Size
Trim Size
6 x 9
Harvey, whose debut collection was praised by the New Yorker as "intensely visual, mournfully comic and syntactically inventive," offers her second stunning collection

About the Author

Matthea  Harvey
Credit: Rob Casper
Matthea Harvey is the author of five books of poetry, including If the Tabloids Are True, What Are You?, Modern Life, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a New York Times Notable Book, and Of Lamb, an illustrated erasure. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
More by author


  • “Harvey crafts her poem with so light a touch that on one level, you can hardly tell what it’s about. But it avoids spinning into annoying nonsense. In between the lines, in between the words, resonances arise: echoes of nostalgia, the desire for comfort, the longing for connection. These ideas are, in a way, stronger for not being fully articulated.”—Time Out New York
  • “Harvey is enormously gifted….This is an excellent, intense book.”—Chicago Tribune
  • “A young poet to watch.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “This book is full of tiny music boxes; peer into them, hear the songs and fall into strange, glittering and familiar abysses.”—BOMB Magazine
Back to Table of Contents