Testimonials

"There are some poets we admire for a mastery that allows them to tell a story, express an epiphany, form a conclusion, all gracefully and even memorably, yet language in some ways remains external to them. But there are other poets in whom language seems to arise spontaneously, fulfilling a design in which the poet’s intention feels secondary. Books by these poets we read with a gathering sense of excitement and recognition at the linguistic web being drawn deliberately tighter around a nucleus of human experience that is both familiar and completely new, until at last it seems no phrase is misplaced and no word lacks its resonance with what has come before. Such a book is Austin Segrest’s Door to Remain."
 
- Karl Kirchwey

 
"'How is it that we come so far from where we wanted to be?' This question gently haunts Door to Remain, Austin Segrest’s debut collection, in its unflinching survey of his mother’s complicated life and too-early death. In these poems, Segrest’s formal ingenuity holds out the hope of order amidst the increasingly illegible chaoses of human love, even as his careful eye cannot miss each small detail—the rubbertree dropping gum on the carpet, the extravagant purple suit left unoccasioned in the closet—that signals the futility of that hope. These are poems that know, to their sorrow, 'how personal, / how molecular, upheaval / gets inside us,' poems that recognize 'what stress / damages the heart' but nevertheless are determined to calculate 'what we can measure of it.'"
 
- Kimberly Johnson

 "This is one of those rare books of elegy in which mourning for the dead turns into mourning for an entire era. The ambivalent truths the poet tells about his life with and without his mother, as well as her own complex way of taking stock of her own troubled life, are rendered in beautifully transparent language that is accurate, taut, down home in its inflections, and sophisticated in its literary savvy and accomplishment. Segrest is always pitch-perfect. He is a master of rendering subtle emotion in a subtly apt way. Immensely readable, the virtuosity of the writing line by line gives great pleasure poem after poem. This is a loving, clearsighted, tactful book by a poet of true distinction."

- Tom Sleigh

 
"Many terrific things can be said about Austin Segrest's Door to Remain – that these are evocative poems of place, that the collection has a powerful narrative arc, that the poems' formal mastery dazzles – but none of them alone captures what a good book it is. The Southern landscape is not so much a landscape as a form of lifeblood. The poet's fierce, honest reckoning with the mother he lost too early infuses the poems with urgency equal to their artistry. As for the artistry, the music and precision of each poem's construction are deft, true, and absorbing. It’s a book you can inhabit, and that likely will inhabit you."

- Adrienne Su

"If the thing that hits a reader first is the formal acuity and range of Austin Segrest’s poetry — its inventions both within and without the tradition — what soon follows is the nuanced force of feeling carried along by the intelligence of his formal grace. This is superbly observed work, made out of a life lived: a life looked at hard, but with the sweetness of forgiveness. Like the best poets writing these days, Segrest transforms his personal grief, vulnerability and anger into something startlingly like our own. He reminds us of how our losses are shared.  And being shared, they may be borne through that door that remains open to us still, despite it all."
 
- David Rivard

"The love child of Elizabeth Bishop and John Donne, Austin Segrest rejuvenates sensation and feeling for our time. His Door to Remain penetrates existence with x-ray vision and a recognition of affliction’s gifts. In part love’s forensics, in part a tour of humanity’s confounding bonds — familial, cultural, personal — the book finds, in our frayed worlds, language that expands and illuminates. Scored by The Shirelles, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Etta James, and the pulse of contemplation, Segrest’s book is a life study for the new century."

- Amy Newman
 
"Austin Segrest's poems are small miracles of compression."

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