Small Sillion

SKU: 978-1-64317-046-6

Joshua McKinney

Free Verse Editions
Edited by Jon Thompson

Information and Pricing
978-1-64317-046-6 (paperback, $14.00); 978-1-64317-047-3 (PDF on CD or by email, $12.00). (c) 2019 by Parlor Press. 99 pages.

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What People Are Saying

Joshua McKinney is a poet of keenest attunement. In Small Sillion he plows furrows in unattended, taken-for-granted scapes of land and mind to discover the wonder of “something/sacred something wholly/mundane.” This poet’s tensile attention balances at the boundary of language and witness, grappling with the ways that language is incommensurate with experience. McKinney’s poetry nonetheless ventures farther, both sensuous and otherworldly: his is a lyricism “aware as the nerve current sang in its flesh” that tenderly, gracefully pursues fulfillment “without knowing the nature of what it points to.” —Elizabeth Robinson

Its every line worked into shine by the poet’s meticulous ear, Joshua McKinney’s Small Sillion is devotion enacted: a vow to make the work of words matter, to make words into matter, by attending to the world with acute attention and tender care. Like the singular singing of Gerard Manley Hopkins, these meticulously sculpted poems attempt to render visible the invisible by enfleshing the word with “the phenomenon of pungent sound,” limning the inscapes suggested by encounters with birds and trees and other emissaries of life outside of human language and consciousness. To truly encounter the otherness alive outside us and to write of it, to persist in such endeavors—these are acts whose faith is born of an unusual openness, the poet “aware as the nerve current sang in its flesh.” How quickly the mundane opens out onto otherwise in these loving lyrics that bring “each creature//inside the soul//of our own flesh.” —Brian Teare

In his luminous fourth collection, Joshua McKinney harvests the threads of his affection to loving fruition. Via poems indebted to the ground—that increasingly denuded and over ploughed place we call the earth--the poet tenderly graphs the region of our ultimate dispossession and somehow makes it feel like home. Both rooted and rootless, and always in the midst of what can be seen or sung, these poems seek “Something joyful, something woeful as the oldest sound. . . .” 
Small Sillion is the Book of Psalms for the 21st century. —Claudia Keelan


Joshua McKinney's fourth collection, Small Sillion, enacts a lyric struggle to perceive the numinous in a world marked by violence. The term sillion, as used by Hopkins in his famous poem, "The Windhover," refers to a furrow turned over by a plough. For McKinney it is both prelude to fertility, and wound, a scarring of the land. Maintaining a tension between the visionary and the mundane, between joy and despair, these poems posit a border between language and the living world; they constitute a personal eco-poetics of skepticism, one that respects language's utility and radiance, while acknowledging that the world's complexity lies beyond the grasp of language

About the Author

Joshua McKinney is the author of three previous books of poetry: Mad Cursive (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2012), The Novice Mourner (Bear Star Press, 2005), and Saunter (University of Georgia, 2002). He is a recipient of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, the Dickinson Prize, the Pavement Saw Chapbook Prize, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. He is coeditor of the online ecopoetry zine, Clade Song, and teaches at California State University Sacramento.


FIRST | Hum | POINT OF REFERENCE | Thou | Down in the River | Prayer for My Daughter | The Understanding | Near Song | Glede | Lepus | To the Chief Musician | Point of Reference | The river was | A Relic | A Valentine | Dip | Sealm | A MUNDANE | Chalk | Another Day in the Perishing Republic | Post Hoc | 7th Displacement | Animism | The Current | Vestige | Incredulity | Harrow | Beyond Reason | Columbine(s) | Rebereaved | Before the Bringing Forth | Evasive Behavior | IN PARADISE | A Rendering | In Paradise | [From the vast city / escaped into] | A Morphology | Ophidian | “Come Down” | Forms of Refusal | A Summoning | Flammarion | Glory | Inspecting a Patch of Grass in the Backyard, I Delight in My Senses, Get Distracted by Thought, Then Delight in My Senses Again | Perishing Ode | Spelt | Late Testimony | Heir | Aspect | Small Sillion | LAST | Unselved | Notes | Acknowledgments | About the Author | Free Verse Editions

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