A Memory of the Future (Hardcover)


By Elizabeth Spires

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393651058, 96pp.

Publication Date: July 24, 2018

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (6/23/2020)

List Price: 26.95*
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Zen-infused meditations on the limitations of memory, mortality, and the boundaries of human existence.

In A Memory of the Future, critically acclaimed poet Elizabeth Spires reflects on selfhood and the search for a core identity. Inspired by the tradition of poetic interest in Zen, Spires explores the noisy space of the mind, interrogating the necessary divide between the social persona that navigates the world and the artist’s secret self. With vivid, careful attention to the minute details of everyday moments, A Memory of the Future observes, questions, and meditates on the ordinary, attempting to make sense of the boundaries of existence.

As the poems move from Zen reflections outward into the identifiable worlds of Manhattan, Maine, and Maryland’s Eastern shore, houses, both real and imagined, become metaphorical extensions of the self and psyche. These poems ask the unanswerable questions that become more pressing in the second half of life. How are we changed by the passage of time? How does memory define and shape us? As Spires reminds us, any memory of the future will become, paradoxically, a memory of the past, and of forgetting.

About the Author

Elizabeth Spires is the author of seven poetry collections, including Worldling and The Wave-Maker. Her poetry has appeared in the Atlantic and The New Yorker, among other publications. A professor at Goucher College, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Praise For A Memory of the Future: Poems

A Memory of the Future by Elizabeth Spires is like a cup of tea for the weary. . . . [Spires's] metaphysical concerns are grounded in refreshingly thoughtful poems as the speaker considers small moments through a spiritual, often Zen perspective.

— Elizabeth Lund

Sprinkled with philosophical inquiries and Zen koans like that of the title, Spires's contemplative sixth collection opens with delicious wordplay.

All the distinguishing characteristics we’ve come to associate with Elizabeth Spires’ poems—their shimmering clarity, verbal restraint, and self-interrogations—are enacted in this new work of meticulous surfaces and surprising depths…Spires’ consuming subject—the fluidity of time set against the immutable presence of death—is approached with Zen-sparked simplicity: ‘As one grows older, / there should be fewer / and fewer words to say.’ Yet those few words, as set down in A Memory of the Future, resonate with wisdom and insistent wonder.

— Michael Waters, author of Celestial Joyride

With insatiable imagination, subtle music, stark candor, an ingenious sense of play, and an all-encompassing vision, Elizabeth Spires builds poem after poem revealing world within word within world. Her subject is nothing less than the feral innocence and courage of a ‘poised / and ready’ soul in search of meaning, open to ebullient joy and harrowing loss…Discovering grandeur in miniature, alighting on a mortal’s fleeting moment in a sublime landscape, Spires enlarges the possibilities of lyric. A Memory of the Future affirms her stature as one of the finest poets writing in English today.

— Phillis Levin, author of Mr. Memory and Other Poems