Forthcoming from Sarabande Books April 2024
Reader, I draws its title from the conclusion to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: "Reader, I married him." Spanning the first years of a marriage, the speaker in Reader, I both courts and eschews nuptial myths, as its speaker—tender and callous, skeptical and hopeful, daughter and lover—finds a role for herself in marriage, in history, in something beyond the self. While these poems burn with a Plathian fire, they also address and invite in a reader who is, as in Jane Eyre, a confidant. Steeped in a world of husbands and fathers, patriarchal nations and power structures, Reader, I traverses bowling alleys and hospital rooms, ancient Troy and public swimming pools, to envision domestic life as a metaphor for civic life, and vice versa.
"Wickedly learned, Corey Van Landingham's Reader, I is a tome chock full of literary allusion and so terrifyingly clever it offers for serious readers of poetry intense pleasure. Imagine Shakespeare's sonnet sequence mated with a stack of bridal magazines. Imagine Dickinson ghostwriting Martha Stewart. This is territory I've come to think of as Learned Woman's Hell. It can be difficult here. Smart women know they risk everything if they commit to a cis-het partnership. We've read the books. Yet this one is written from the other side. And its achievement is how far it takes us. The beauty of marriage is in the mundane. It might even make you, Reader, believe in love. In the Real Thing."
"Corey Van Landingham negotiates between an alleged Victorian decorum and an undeniable contemporary lyricism that dazzles, even as it holds us close. In one of her central poems, 'The Marriage Plot, ' she writes that 'We were reared / on Wharton and Bronte, on / Waugh . . . rooting through our pasts / to find some common / ground.' Reader, I is a marvel of this common ground made of both learnedness and crazy play, wit and revelation, in poems of tremendous elasticity of design--from slender, sinuous lines to blocks of epistolary prose that display Van Landingham's intimacy and her irony. Hers are poems of identity and cultural bearing, negotiating selfhood within (and without) the institutions of nation and marriage, citizenship and readership, winking, promising, and enlightening all the way."