The Year of What Now

The Year of What Now
Brian Russell
"The writing is nuanced, full of feeling. . . . Do we read, [Russell] is asking, to be reassured, or to be drawn into an unknown territory, where we are what we imagine? The Year of What Now leaves it up to us."—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"[A] wonderful debut collection. . . . A confessional poet is primarily asking the reader to witness, whereas a poet such as Russell—whose work employs fiction—is primarily asking the reader to imagine. These poems do not merely encourage readers to watch and be amazed by his and his wife's suffering, but rather encourage us to think much more broadly about how terrifying love is."—Kathleen Rooney, The Poetry Foundation

About the Book

Debut poetry by Brian Russell, winner of the Bakeless Poetry Prize

of what now
Are we the pure products   and what
Does that even mean   pure   isn’t it
Obvious   we are each our own culture
Alive with the virus that’s waiting
To unmake us.
—from “The Year of What Now”
The Year of What Now is not a book of poems about cancer. It’s not a book that wears its heart on its sleeve. It doesn’t parade the autobiographical in your face, though the conventions seem at first to be autobiography. It’s not a cry in extremis, de profundis, etc. It’s more casual, more canny, more casually well-made, more philosophically oriented. . . . This book seems to me to represent a way forward for other young poets in its wide engagement with the world, in its unabashed embrace of the personal, and its equally galvanizing skepticism about the limits of subjective speech. At its deepest level, it embodies the desire to establish true sequences of pain from the cellular level to the most abstract operations of culture, technology, and possible worlds of the spirit.”—Tom Sleigh, Bakeless Prize judge, from the Introduction

Additional Reviews

"These poems are quiet/frank, surprising/excellently paced, and concerned, above all else, with relatable human experience."Harriet, Top Poetry Picks for 2013
"[M]y heart beat fast with the first poem and through to the last. . . . Although we know that trillions of years from now the stars will burn out, nothing at this time seems more important than Brian Russell's take on death."—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Russell’s debut book, which could have easily been poems about dying and cancer, transcends the disease and warms the heart with a deep appreciation and celebration of life’s smallest marvels, like when your partner’s ‘fingers twitch / in a syncopated rhythm.'”New Pages
“[This poetry is] about life, its infinite meanings, and the times when death courts its hosts. It reverberates. Each word is so full. . . . Space is carved out for those who leave. . . . It is in such emptiness that Brain Russell effectively communicates infinity and shows how even the spaces between his words contain volumes.”Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine 
"Russell is speaking to the human condition itself. . . . This is a book to be revisited, to be reconsidered. There is a philosophical reckoning undertaken in these poems that can't be fully grasped in one sitting."Rumpus
"Personal, but never cloying, Russell's poems use anecdotes and crisp line breaks to craft a unified collection that doesn't feel limited in scope."Los Angeles Review
“Brian Russell’s debut collection is at once passionately quiet and quietly passionate. Arranged in a loose chronology, he explores the fear of loss, loss, and what happens to the self in the face of regaining a measure of the ordinary. Russell marvelously captures the way our thoughts naturally enjamb: at times out of anxiety and, at other moments, figuring things out. Or not knowing what to say and coming up with a wry comment to this ‘you,’ who is ‘a fugitive to disease.’ The poems start out simply only to enjamb into an alternate meaning: ‘. . . straining / To make out what’s right / In front of you.’ Yes, we strain to make out what is right and what is right in front of us. Quiet and passion, then, are both subject and theme. And style. The Year of What Now is a truly remarkable collection.”—Kimiko Hahn
“Dynamically poignant. . . . [Russell’s] poetry endeavors to understand the world in complicated and sophisticated ways.”The Huffington Post