Severance (Salmon Poetry, 2019)
“Lush with invented compound words and quirky rhymes, the poems in Severance represent a confluence of timeless allegory, hallucination, and rock opera staged in a puppet theater lit by a tinfoil sun. In a collection that describes a sequence of devastating losses from the point of view of an Ishmael-like survivor, Grief serves as a sort of interlocutor, at once companion, instigator, enemy, doctor, prophet, and god. Fanning enacts lyricism-as-salvation in songs “all contusion and blue” which tamp the wound, snip the strings of fate, and open the scarlet curtain into day.
—Diane Seuss, author of Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl and Four-Legged Girl, Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“In Severance, his fourth full-length book of poems, Robert Fanning has severed the strings from the poet as marionette—the poet tied to poetic form, tethered to how a poem takes its shape and moves about on the page—to make a book like no other. Prepare to be undone, unhinged, unstrung by the strange song that is this book. Prepare for its strangeness to rearrange everything you believed a book of poems might be.”
—Peter Markus, author of Bob, or Man on Boat, and five other books of fiction, the latest The Fish and the Not Fish. He lives in Michigan where he teaches as the senior writer with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit.
“Robert Fanning’s Severance contains a large grief miniaturized and given a proscenium stage and a script. Here, a Professor converses with Grief in between Oldsongs that have the music of a lullaby in a performance of orchards and snow that wants to make an order out of the cold eternity. The metaphors change with each angle, circling and closing in on a message, a meaning in the difficulties of loss. This book helps me see the beauty of a grief master, a puppeteer who uses grief to activate the gone, as if our pain for those we’ve lost is the song that keeps them dancing in the Winterland. It’s not life, but something like it, until we finally, mercifully, cut the tethers and truly let those we’ve lost go on without us.”
—Traci Brimhall, author of Saudade, Our Lady of the Ruins, and Rookery
Our Sudden Museum (Salmon Poetry, 2017)
“With this collection, Robert Fanning emerges as one of the strongest of a wildly talented generation of younger American poets. His poems are full-throated, his heart is large enough to drive a truck through, his imagination has (and needs) no brakes, and he has learned his trade. This is a brilliant book.”
—Thomas Lux, author of twelve books of poetry and winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
“In his much-anticipated third collection, Robert Fanning records and rolls into the sparks and stardust of a life simultaneously bursting with a brave display of lovesong and loss. What it means to make a family—in all the forms of that charged word—is full on display here as Fanning knows all too well the delicate dance we must do in this life, how to chase and confront “the swing of rope and blade,” while trying to “teach escape to these I keep.” It’s a marvel of a collection, displaying one of the rarest of gifts: that in spite of such gut-wrenching loss, we can still float, “in the pitch of us, the bedlam and hum, in the rush of wind and sea.”
“A testament to the power of elegy, the poems in Our Sudden Museum actualize the world in which we all rise and fall. Though several poems smolder from tragedy, this book does not dishearten because, though tuned to the music of sorrow, Fanning’s voice pulses with the fullness of being alive.”
American Prophet (Marick Press, 2009):
“American Prophet, through poems that manage to be both irreverent and frighteningly inspiring, dares to address the larger concerns of our day: Faith and Doubt. We follow Robert Fanning’s ‘Prophet’ in his dark suit, as he roams the common landscape of dry cleaners, movie theaters, and super-marts, like a mad circuit preacher trapped in a strip-mall. What is salvation in a secular world? In a time of deep divisions between the right and the left, believers and those who believe otherwise? No matter what the reader’s background, we find ourselves walking in the Prophet’s shoes, feeling his grope toward vision, and his frustration as he loses sight of it. It takes an adept poet to pull this off, but these lyrics work the way poetry is meant to work, they move us past presumption and lax acceptance, past what we think we know, to make us rethink our staid convictions, whatever those might be.”
“Poetry has long been handmaiden to prophecy, and Robert Fanning’s second book of poetry, American Prophet represents one of the more recent poetic iterations of the fruitful relationship between these two crafts…That Fanning’s American Prophet should thus be revealed to us in poetic form therefore seems singularly appropriate considering the historically close connection between poetry and prophecy.”
—Peter Eubanks, Notes on Contemporary Literature
The Seed Thieves (Marick Press, 2006):
“Passionate and accomplished, this poet’s ear is beautifully tuned…A poet of great emotional depth, skill, and imaginative energy…Fanning is a powerful and urgent young poet whose work I have been following for some time…The Seed Thieves is an urgent, nervous, tender, and brilliant first book. Read it for joy!”
—Thomas Lux, author of Child Made of Sand, God Particles, and many other books of poetry
“Turning away from this morning’s headlines to Robert Fannings’ book I feel that someone has steadied my shoulders, and for a while I walk in the holy light of sanity — through charred buildings, yes, in and out of broken-hearted familes and urban traffic, the awful billboards and births and deaths, “the intricate architecture of rubble” that is our lived lives. But the voice guiding me is clear, and the hand on my shoulder sure. It’s a quality we used to call “character”, a quality of soul, that keeps me turning the pages. When I look up from the book I see through the window I hadn’t noticed all morning: outside the returning birds are industrious as ever — and singing.”
— Marie Howe, author of The Good Thief and What the Living Do
“Robert Fanning’s poems originate from some uncanny place between a fevered imagination and a keen intellect. They are musical, dangerous poems — both sparing and wild. This poet searches for language and meaning in a mysterious world. What the poems offer, instead, is more mystery. More dream. More strange and lovely imagery and music. Robert Fanning is the real thing — a brave traveler in the sensory world, the subconscious, the realms of the dead and the very-much-alive — and he has emerged with these brilliant, startling, compelling poems”.
– Laura Kasischke, author of Fire and Flower and Gardening in the Dark.
“Robert Fanning’s music is percussive, meticulous and darkly funny. Like a night watchman, this poet shines a fiercely concentrated light on the weird beauty of the material world—he’s like Diogenes, that other cynic who was also on a quest for the truth.”
—Sherry Fairchock, author of The Palace of Ashes
“There is, in his work, the muscular skepticism of modernity and humor of Howard Nemerov. The book is so moving and mature an experience of reading, that one imagines Frost at mid-career, and this is Robert Fanning’s first book. Like Nemerov and Frost, Fanning inherits a contemplative art infused by romanticism that is both tender and tough in its ability to expose, expect, and forgive.”
—Caroline Maun, author of What Remains
“These poems resonate with a most exquisite sense of longing and visceral intensity. Through his poetry, we appreciate the significance of memory and loss, while marveling at his uncanny ability to resurrect, in the most immediate sense, those occasions once relegated to obscurity. There is an underlying urgency within Fanning’s poems that compels the reader to indeed take note.”
—Tim Monaghan, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The Ledge Magazine and Press