Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows is the winner of the 2015 Debut-litzer Prize in Poetry.
“Everyone warns us off the rocks. / But what will keep us from the river?” Leigh asks in her debut collection, which pieces together a kind of mythology in which the surreal and celestial coexist with the realities of childhood abuse as an adult speaker grapples with its lasting emotional trauma. Rooted in a place of deep faith and bottomless compassion, Leigh’s speaker struggles to remember, and to remind us all, “that to worship is to survive is to be / wholly human.”
“Sex Education,”from Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows:
Folded into the carpet, eyes closed, I huddle
next to my small sisters—the baby
curled in the middle. My parents shuffle
in the couch bed beside us, and I wake. I peek.
I absorb the wet sounds of one mouth
guzzling another’s laughter—and without
health class pamphlets, without Eve’s Adam
and the fruit still rich on his chin, I learn
the music of bodies smacking together.
I learn the word yes. And how yes—
when whispered over and over—seems to free
other meanings—secret meanings
I never heard them speak in daylight.
“This book went through me like a blue lightning strike. Part lyric, part narrative, and always alive, unflinchingly alive. A wonderful book and an even more astonishing debut!” —Thomas Lux
“Whether in furious psalm or impassioned testimony, the woman we meet in these poems is sharply aware that any kind of answer fragments into further questions. And she is committed to such undertakings. In Eugenia Leigh’s moving debut collection, Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows, the reader is drawn into a childhood that is ‘My father’s voice full of boils’ … ‘I offer God 1997’ … ‘angel hunting’ … ‘my mother’s voice / flapping in my blood: If you need to run, run’ …and daring to ‘hate the dead’. Join her in this resolve.” —Kimiko Hahn
“Built out of blood and awe, rooted in sorrow and radiant lyricism, these poems remind us that ‘to survive is to be / wholly human.’ Divine and earthly voices haunt these poems. God and parents singe the speaker’s heart; angels and sisters redeem it. These poems are brutal and brilliant. But also instructive. They teach us to ‘weld our wounds / to form tools.’ This is a book of moving and startling epiphanies. I can’t wait to teach it.” —Eduardo Corral
“By the end of the collection, I can’t help feeling the same echoes of devastation and resolve. These are brave poems and a remarkable debut. I look forward to reading more from Leigh. Her words feel important, and they should be read with the care and love that good poems deserve.” Read the full review.
“Reading Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows reminded me of George Herbert’s assertion that ‘He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself of pass.’ Leigh’s poems nakedly envision a world of complicated hope, and in doing so, create a foundation for that bridge of ourselves over which we pass to remain intact, at least for a little longer.” Read the full review.
“In Leigh’s world, survival doesn’t mean absolution or release but the ability to create something new. Imagination is a tool for liberation, allowing the speaker and characters throughout the collection to endure; prepared to make something more powerful than the retelling of tragedy, as in the collection’s last line (‘The Happy Couple’): ‘For now, we sing.'” Read the full review.
“These poems are loosely focused on God, father and family — but it is Leigh’s precise weight we enjoy most, regardless of subject. Her voice has weight, resonance, echo and these poems can make you laugh out loud, usually just before Leigh kicks you in the throat.” Read the full review.
“…throughout Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows—the reader must reckon with the impossibility of unceasing grace in the face of violence, a grace which Leigh captures with a sharp-edged, heart-splitting beauty. She asks us what it means to endure on earth, instead of in the stars, after living trauma that’s determined enough to end us.” Read the full review.
“The power of Leigh’s work is that she gives her lyric speaker the chance to find strength in remaking wounds into something new, perhaps even beautiful in these twisted reconfigurations. Is this approach not the best a confessional poet can do in the face of such great trauma? This collection is a perfect fit amongst the others I’ve read from Four Way Books; the editors and publishers of the press are well aware of the ways that confessional poets lyrically confront such deep wounds to remind us that the elegance is in how we choose to recover. ” —Asian American Literature Fans Read the full review.