The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather

The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather

Sampson Starkweather

So if a book is an afterlife, why not have four? For these are indeed four separate books with their own forms and voices and preoccupations. KING OF THE FOREST—the title cleverly unites Jack Spicer's wounded language lion with the title of one of fugitive novelist Benno von Archimboldi's titles in Roberto Bolaño's 2666—works in prose with the material of dreams, fantasy geographies and the sudden appearance of magical children, ghosts of childhood. LA LA LA fractures syllogisms, turning them inside out and reworking them into bass-voiced sexy soul-singer slow jams. THE WATERS steps into the footprints of Cesar Vallejo's Trilce, gently inviting this paradigmatic work of modernist poetry to haunt a latter-day homage that is not a translation but, Starkweather instead suggests, a 'transcontemporation.' Residue of Vallejo—words rummaged through and arrayed like broken bits of stone—remain like a mineral deposit swirled into these poems that record the experience of a confrontation, a dialogue between ghosts. Bringing this passionate late-into-the-night conversation fully into the present, SELF HELP POEMS transfigures email dispatches into an exploration of poem-friendship and wounded, punch-drunk Harlequin-robocop masculinity. Disparate but kindred, these books are like four ecologically distinct quadrants of one realm, attractions in a Disneyland of poetry's possibilities.

Jared White

What People Are Saying

The Huffington Post

The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather is (are) rife with the sorts of gestures we haven't seen in poetry in--well, perhaps never--and for this reason we must call this text not only thrillingly accessible, not only deeply thought-provoking, but also, and without exaggeration, historically important. This staggeringly ambitious debut collection is, in sum, to quote its author, 'the sound of a finger pointing to some/ unseen thing. To be reckoned with, or perhaps,/ reckoned by.

Inside the Book

Poetry / Life
Perfect Bound 328 pp
9" x 6"
Publication Date:
June 2013


The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post

Mark Gurarie on Coldfront Magazine

Six short reviews on Coldfront Magazine 

American Microreviews

American Microreviews



From the Book

from King of the Forest


The boy, mostly seaweed, was born in the forest. Specifically, where the forest meets the sea— a floor of dead things and trees that won't budge to any music, that complain about their roots, that don't know if they are dead or not, that listen to the boy's thoughts like a radio, occasionally swaying to his anger or leaked dreams, but mostly that compose a darkness, a darkness that is its own color, a darkness that opens up into a bright shoreless sea. The sea where everything, eventually, ends.

from La La La


I am small

but make
big music
if you could look
into my brain
it would look like
the sound of the emergency
broadcast system
as if we didn't all
have an eagle
thrashing in our thorax
it's time
to maim maims
once and for all
I'd like to bludgeon
violence to death
pardon me I didn't see
your sheriff's badge
believe me
I loved you
before roads
alive and in the air
I dreamed I dreamed
a radio melting
the sun
eventually everything falls
apart and resembles
we are always losing
but what
we have
finally become