Winner of the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry
The etymology of the word “warp” is constantly at play in Laura Bylenok’s new collection of poems, though the word almost never appears. Warp becomes an agent of the change that is central to existence, projecting through space and laying on hands. Bylenok weaves iterations of warp’s definitions through her verses like a wave, a particle, a distortion, a sigh. “I want to feel a thing, to feel / myself turn over in my fingers, / turn over in my hands / of salt, my mouth of salt.” Never obvious, Bylenok’s imagery and sounds linger. “Your signature will cover me, an x / I carry in my eyes, and on my tongue / a sip of scotch about to vaporize.” Bylenok writes important poems grounded in physicality, finding the divine in the ordinary. “In the church, I always saw her, / absentminded, touch her own hands / as if to touch something under the skin.”
Warp is a distinguished book of poems that combines imaginative verve with longing to create a rich tapestry across space and time. With a fresh command of language, demonstrated in poems that harness the vocabulary and structures of science, as well as in poems that deftly handle the more traditional sonnet and villanelle, Laura Bylenok is writing memorable lyric poetry.
—Arthur Sze, 2015 T. S. Eliot Judge
What a brilliant first book this is. In Warp, Laura Bylenok makes an unending loop between word and world, art and science. Each of these beautifully woven poems is also a sound game played between writer and reader. High wit and deep feeling make this poet’s debut one of the most exciting I’ve seen.
—Mary Jo Salter, author of Nothing by Design and Open Shutters
You could call Laura Bylenok’s Warp an extended meditation on a word, but during the course of her remarkable investigation she shows us that her word, perhaps like any other, is all but singular. To warp word into words, even in the act of meditation, is to engage the entire multiplicity of language, all its gorgeous meanderings and torques. Bylenok is an inveterate follower of language into wherever it leads–play, tragedy, time–and her own warpings, transmutations, and glorious reinventions ( “swoon” into “swerve”; “aurora” into “ouroboros”) show us that if language is the perpetual lens of the poet, it is always turning us into new ideas. In these poems, play is the method, but play as serious pleasure. Bylenok shows us again and again how, in pressuring our language, we reshape ourselves and our deepest understanding of reality.
—Katharine Coles, author of The Earth Is Not Flat and Flight