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published by Kore Press, 2020
“Via Negativa,” often used to talk about the divine: a way of describing what something is by describing what it is not, is a book about the more difficult, but truer, ways of talking about the ecstatic world. Half grappling with divinity and the many manifestations of gender/the self , and half an ars poetica, Via Negativa is a gorgeous holy dunking, a submersion into a rich field of lyricism and emotion, a mikva that yearns to leave the reader clear-eyed and bright. Diving into verbal lostness, the hatred of poetry, mythology, and the epistemology of identity, this book challenges the tripartite notion of holiness and its relationship to poetic duty.
"July Westhale remains a poet of the highest order and ‘Via Negativa’ is an exquisite, spellbinding achievement."
—Diriye Osman, author of Fairytales for Lost Children
"I love the surprise of these meditations on creation – how joy rises up inside “flesh-failings;” how desire continually creates a “a vow of silence but a throat of song.” This is the deity I’ve wanted to know: one of “plural-silence." And how thankful I am to have found July Westhale's Via Negativa, a fellow seeker, in language I love: "all/engorged, all surrendering.” I am ever grateful to her for creating the queer-poem-church we’ve needed inside a 'sentence small, eternal, hushed.' "
—TC Tolbert, author of Turning to Hear the Last Leaves of Stargazer Fall
—Diana Whitney, author of Wanting It
"When catapulted, flying free, you know it is poetry! July Westhale's "Ars Poetica" will renew your idea of how a poem stands in midair with the lush brilliance, where yes, dodgeball and love align forces! I want this collection in our lives! Westhale beautifully recalibrates our understanding of a footnote as only a poet could reimagine!"
—CAConrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death
"Here are July Westhale’s new poems: where death smells like "waterlogged Pall Malls"; where a “freshly laundered” pickup truck idles outside the window; where a ravished young woman tramps to the kitchen in her “birthday body,” opens “the vault of the refrigerator” and rests her head on “the cool rationale of a cantaloupe.” These poems are dizzying, erotic, fiercely intelligent, and, in the best ways, many-minded. Via Negativa is a book by one of our finest young poets, fully present in the world, attuned to the dark mysteries of language and insight." —Kevin Prufer, author of Churches