Rest is a vivid, powerful debut collection examining the human cost of crossing the border. In 2010, Margaree Little was working for a humanitarian mission near Tucson when, along with a group of volunteers, she found the unidentified body of a man, who a medical examiner would later estimate died at least six months before. This discovery serves as the jumping-off point to a stunning, elegiac series of poems commemorating an imagined, unknown life. Anchored by Little’s keen eye and unsparing self-reflection, this collection asks us to examine how a single life can affect so many others.
“The Mattress” from Rest:
“Unerring cadences, an arroyo of words awash in grief for our closed borders, the many lost whose hopes the Southwest desert claimed, who ‘walked in circles first . . . certain that this way, yes/this way was north;’ these haunting poems build phrase by phrase, hypnotic, obsessive return to ‘the man we found,’ ‘how his eyes were gone, how through that space/ the earth could look out . . .’ Like vigil candles placed on improvised altars, these poems bear witness as they burn and burn.”—Eleanor Wilner
“Framing Rest is a list of the 253 bodies discovered along the Arizona-Mexico border in a single year. At its center is one body that, through an imaginative act simultaneously embraced and resisted, becomes the story of a man, a story at once personal and political, a story through which Margaree Little discovers her own story. ‘There’s no secret to this,’ she says, ‘You look for a trail and then follow it.’ Yet these bracing, vulnerable poems embody the central mystery of poetry: what was riven is made whole.”—James Longenbach
“What does it mean to carry a death we do not know, yet nonetheless becomes part of us? ‘We found a body, I said, though I knew that wasn’t right. / There must have been something of a man left in him // or the sheriff wouldn’t have held each part of him / at arm’s length, lifting, before he dropped it in the bag.’ Margaree Little’s Rest is a profoundly restless book of poems, haunted, elegiac, and full of troubled rain. Set in Arizona, on the borderlands between countries, Rest is part noir mystery, part documentary, and part elegy—set into motion by the poet’s discovery of human remains, a body torn of his history and face and name. A deeply ethical book of poems, Rest keeps returning to this unknowable man’s body and history, inviting us to consider the terrible human cost of undocumented migrancy, and the moral cost of forgetting.”—Philip Metres
“Unraveling from an encounter with a man’s remains on the Arizona-Mexico border, this collection asks hard questions: of what are his remains evidence? What does it matter that another person has been lost if I never imagined he was mine to lose? What does the loss of a person, or many people, mean? These poems offer a wildly intelligent mind confronting its own responses as it grapples with intimacy, responsibility, and care. Margaree Little’s voice is poised, alert, and remarkably discerning, even in facing the most anguished bewilderments. No book has done more to help me feel that ‘to be familiar with’ is not the same as ‘to know.’ Writing deeply, skillfully into and sometimes against lyric techniques, she is a poet of conscience who sounds like no one else; the pulse of her lines quietly enthralls. This is formidable, vital, human work.”—Mary Szybist
“…Journey through Little’s most recent release ‘Rest’, a humorous, scientific, thought-provoking book of poetry….”—Julia Cirignano
“…The poems in this collection rely on the practiced art of imaginative instinct; the passage above is a representation of that painstaking, devoted desire to elegize, to clean deep psychic wounds, which is a craft in itself.” Read the full review.