Selected for the 2013 National Poetry Series by Martha Collins, who writes: The territory mapped in this gorgeous book—first a forest with animals, then water and winter ice—is wracked by violence, war, and loss, with the bones and viscera of the living and dead laying claim to our attention. But it is also a world of dream and vision: “All moments will shine if you cut them open,” the poet says. And though the process is often brutal, as war edges toward apocalypse, then quiets to elegiac ache, a fierce beauty emerges, line by line, image by image, transforming darkness as well as light.


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Praise for Bone Map:

“Johnson’s poems, like light, clarify even as they pierce.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Johnson’s] spare, versatile diction gives these slender poems the intractable grip of a sudden riptide. Each one vivisects its subject to better appreciate its force of beauty, its startling nature, with novel grace and curiosity.” —Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness

“Johnson’s poems feel like a series of engravings discovered in an abandoned cabin deep in the forest. . .Bone Map was a reminder of how it felt to be devastated, made new by poetry. I can’t expect much more from a book.” —Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

“[Bone Map] cuts through like a well-sharpened knife. It leaves the reader stunned, impressed, even scared. . .a gripping, intelligent, and impressive debut.” —Salvatore Ruggiero, Bookslut

Bone Map makes words said, and heard, for the first time. Who believes that young poets cannot be Masters? Each poem is a new backdrop for matters of interest – mostly of love – new circumstances – sometimes surreal – each page an index of bright beautiful language.” —Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

“This is not trendy poetry. . .as far as I can tell, there is no internet in there; it is not humorous, but it is remarkable, brave. Bone Map manages to bring the reader both intimately close to the subject matter, and far away as if looking from the widest possible angle.” —Mark Gurarie, The Literary Review

“Johnson’s exacting and muscular use of language and image, as well as the psychic environment she creates, makes every comfort provisional, therefore, believable. . .This is a brutal and beautiful book.” —Molly Spencer, The Rumpus

“Johnson’s stories become living creatures that she examines precisely – like a surgeon making perfect cuts into flesh, each thought curated before being laid out on the page.” —Nicole Capo, [PANK]

“Aware, meditative, and ideologically consistent, Johnson moves the reader through a dangerous and frightening terrain without inciting disgust or fear, only reverence and curiosity.” —Jozie Konczal, The Hollins Critic

“This book is a map. Carry it with you. Then open it. Let it advise and scare you again and again.” —Marianne Boruch, author of Cadaver, Speak and Grace, Fallen From

“Johnson attunes us not to cosmic harmonies that remove us from the world in which we live, but to those violent facts that thrill easier orders back into the difficulty of actual existence. She asks us to enter, not to contemplate; asks us to bite, not to savor.” —Dan Beachy-Quick, author of Wonderful Investigations and A Whaler’s Dictionary

“Sara Eliza Johnson’s Bone Map charts a dreamscape that mixes elements of folk tale into mysterious itineraries through the commingled fringes of the world of sacramental animals and a frail humankind. She writes with the sere precision reminiscent of Alaskan poet John Haines, yet with a delicacy of language and magical thought all her own. Johnson is a builder of miraculous worlds and not their devourer.” —Garrett Hongo, author of Coral Road