Praise for Singing Lessons:

“Kevin McIlvoy’s superb Singing Lessons tells stories with a Frost-like respect for the terror, longing, and absurdity of everyday intersections with archetypal forces, and the difficult necessity of saying anything about what happened afterward. The stakes here are so high that it’s a surprise when the poems are also, often, shockingly funny: in one almost-epic, McIlvoy does for couples’ dance instruction what Homer did for war, only funnier and sexier. When I fed this book into one of those online analyzers that shows which words are used most often, it seemed telling that one is “us.” Also, “one,” “time,” “sing” and “inside”—once upon a time, a man sang about what is on the inside. Shakespeare believed that with his poems he could make people speak his beloved’s name “[w]hen all the breathers of this world are dead,” and he was right. The Kevin McIlvoy we loved is gone, but such virtue had his pen that he still lives, “Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.”

Patrick Donnelly, author of Willow Hammer, Little-Known Operas, Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, and The Charge.

“For all of us who knew Kevin McIlvoy as a peerless fiction writer and miraculous teacher, here is the posthumous gift of his first poetry collection, Singing Lessons. Mc was a musician who found his truest instrument in words. Meditating on love, addiction, family, distance, the poems trace the dances we make, the songs we sing as we are shaped by what Keats called ‘this vale of soul-making.’ In scope and sheer vitality, we hear echoes of Berryman’s Dream Songs; the visionary exactitude of poets like Lynda Hull, Larry Levis, Brigit Pegeen Kelly; also, the grit of the blues, twang of steel guitar, howl of harmonica—our haunted history as a nation. Yet the wild beguiling music of this work is all Mc’s own: a dazzling dance in which ‘together we sweeten.’”

Sheila Fiona Black, author of Radium Dream and co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability

“Singing Lessons is luminous and gritty, meditative and cacophonous, darkly funny and celebratory. It is both dance and musical composition—parts classical, blues, and avant garde—a waltz at its center reminding us of what language can never completely express: ‘what was, what is—if words / were what a dancer does,’ its final notes heartbreakingly prescient.”

Polly Buckingham, author of The River People

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