“In these times when daily we experience the erosion, even the eradication of language we can trust, the narrator of these searing poems can no longer believe in the written word. And yet there is Ellis, writing in words he asks us to believe in, each leading us to the bitter beauty that remains.”
This testimonial encapsulates Dr. Reuben Ellis’ new chapbook Formula (Finishing Line Press, 2019). As Dr. Ellis, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, himself states, he doesn’t necessarily believe in formulas. “I have lost significant faith in language generally,” he stated at a MORIA-sponsored reading on campus last month, “but I wanted to give the whole thing a chance to work.” So he decided to invent new formulas loosely and casually inspired by the Tsalagi formulas cataloged by James Mooney, U.S. Bureau of Ethnology ethnographer, in his book Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, published in 1891. The Cherokee formulas are lithe, musical, surprising, and designed to bring about “the fit between words and world.” Dr. Ellis, in response, sought to explore what remains when nothing works, when charms fail.
Equally heralded upon release is the new chapbook Fearn (Cooper Dillon Books, 2019) by Linda Dove, Adjunct Professor in the Writing Department. Her editor, Adam Deutsch, explains that Fearn is “a collection where fear is transforming, and doesn’t just become, but is a spectrum of objects, actions, and sensations. Fear is not something that’s crushing a person, or that destroys the world like a weapon. ‘It learns / to wait, it’s metal a hole of slack,’ a part of nature, dynamics, and an essential creating element of the world. These are poems of moments when fear is something that’s vulnerable and even evocative of a sympathy. Fearn is a force, but one that’s just like anything else, and is only a part of all the other motions in this universe: ‘it holds our bodies open like a bag / stuffed with raked leaves’.”