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Praise for A Turkish Dictionary

A wall of roses and a different sky—these are the policy Andrew Wessels commends to our disfigured and redacted world. And the commendation is not only timely, tender, and beautiful, though it is all that and much, much more. It is the sovereign lexicon of our best future. A Turkish Dictionary parses prophecy, word by word.

—Donald Revell

“'The purpose / of this book,' writes Andrew Wessels in his graceful and moving debut collection, 'is to explain / the vagaries of a poet.' Fashioning an arabesque from apologia, A Turkish Dictionary may be read as a work of translation theory, a historical travel guide to where East merges with West, a philosophical investigation, a love letter 'from A to Z,' and an indefinite lexicon wherein 'the cloud of word is cloud.' The bewildered literary cosmopolitan who speaks through these poems finds forms of dwelling where others would see only transition—'halfway down / the broken / staircase wandered / through'—and, in the process, Wessels acknowledges the longing at the heart of all belonging. In the end, A Turkish Dictionary renews our sense of the inexhaustible possibilities within all language, or, as the poet himself writes, 'the prayer itself a call to prayer.'”

—Srikanth Reddy


from Boston Review‘s 2017 Summer Poetry Reading recommendations:

“Deeply relational, each poem lives in light of what has come before it, what losses and emendations have led there. This poetry exists in the interplay of large-scale pieces, travelogue and encyclopedia tessellated with lyric. Wessels seems to reject the idea that poems should be readable to one’s friends, or excerptable. What is needed instead, he suggests, is a dictionary that compasses Chaucer and Wittgenstein and Twombly on the longings of erasure…”

from Melih Levi at Colorado Review:

"Frank O’Hara once mused, “It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial.” Andrew Wessels’s first book of poems, A Turkish Dictionary, tends towards the latter. Every poetic gesture in the book is accompanied by a disquiet about the too “concrete and circumstantial” structure of everyday perception. To prevent being subsumed by the magnetism of the dominant perspective, the poet feels the need to continuously renew his ways of seeing, noticing, collecting, ordering, and integrating information. In this sense, A Turkish Dictionary is very much a work of its time. Wessels is committed to a poetics that shies away from putting the world together. He is tremendously careful about the subjectivity of his own agency, and if there is one thing that is fixed in this book it is the poet’s continuous anxiety about imposing his own version of reality onto the world."

from Grace Cavalieri at Washington Independent Review of Books:

“But here’s what I like best — when Wessels gives us a full-blown straight-ahead poem. It’s as if he dissects rainbows to get words that we can intuit even if we can’t understand; this can be transformative. Wessels is lifting, lifting, lifting, the language, making us reach for it. The whole of the book is an unusual blend of imagination and documentation — aphorisms and prose — he’s unapologetically original; and I learned a lot about strange things that have been buried in the archives. This book is a new kind of country in the nation states of poetry…”

from rob mclennan:

“Composed as both a personal and historical essay via the lyric collage, A Turkish Dictionary is expansive, stunningly beautiful and remarkably dense, reminiscent of other poem-essay works by poets such as Juliana Spahr, Sue Landers and Susan Howe for the disparate threads woven together to create a single, sustained line…”

from Spencer Dew at decomP:

"This ambitious, richly rewarding book—an investigation into Turkish history, a consideration of the politics of language, a flâneur’s account of the way the past occupies the present, a philosophical examination into language, and a series of formal experiments with language—begins and ends with acts of waking, first to a song or a memory of a song, finally in advance of the call to prayer and as a prelude to our narrator’s own, unique prayer, a prayer to self..."




See the full list of upcoming and past readings here. You can listen to the following recorded events below: