"Like the tiny park from which Claudia Carlson took her inspiration—a place both embedded in its busy urban environment and set apart from it by the book covers of buildings—this book creates a space where poems rhyme with the gorgeous photographs that surround them, where the sensibility of the poet-photographer interacts with the world itself, and where the grateful reader can linger with quiet pleasure among birds, trees, words, buildings, people, rain, snow, a giant television, and that singular cast of reflected urban sunlight."
— Jeffrey Harrison, author of Incomplete Knowledge
"'For something to be interesting,' says Flaubert, 'you just have to look at it long enough.' And for a pocket park to be interesting, you just have to open this book and follow Claudia Carlson through four seasons of lunch hours...Amid sparrows on picnics and ordinary New Yorkers brandishing their sandwiches, you'll see Icarus fly by on a skateboard and watch Persephone disappear into the concrete cavern of a parking structure."
— Sarah White, author of Alice Ages and Ages
"In this superb photo-poetry splurge, Carlson captures what’s diverse and divine in the daily thrum of the tidy, urban park next to her office. She elegantly subverts the routine of her job’s lunch-break, with an anything-but-routine vision. Carlson’s generous and precise interpretation of a glimpse teaches us to seek infinite nuances in what’s most familiar. Her gift for detail is alarmingly pleasing. If she looks at your face 50 times, you can bet she’ll never see the same nose twice."
— Flash Rosenberg, photographer, cartoonist, writer, performer, and Artist in Residence for LIVE from the New York Public Library
"Claudia Carlson's' second collection, Pocket Park, captures the iconic in everyday life as it unfolds within the dimensions of a park in midtown Manhattan. In this reflecting pool surrounded by skyscrapers, poems embedded in photographic images read the seasonal clock. It's as if instead of the abundant Chinese landscape at Mirror Lake, Tu Fu were faced with trees inserted into concrete "like hair plugs," and "Two Yorkies tied to a lamppost" copulating rapidly—a version of nature in which awe and redemption are replaced by irony and absence. Carlson evokes a mood throughout that is haunted by longing, Persephone "craving the sexy bad other/ that isn't mother" where the underworld has become a parking lot and the winter wind "bangs the empty/brick singing bowl". These poems harvest remarkable observations of a threshold world with the timeless essence of a twelve bar blues."
— Paul Pines, author of Last Call at the Tin Palace and Divine Madness
Praise for The Elephant House
“Every page of Claudia Carlson’s wonderful new book The Elephant House brings a fresh pleasure and takes the reader to a new place. Carlson’s speakers move through personal and historical landscapes, packing and unpacking, searching for home and all that it represents. These poems are like the boxes that ‘litter the floor / their virginal labels daring you to pry them open’. Open the book and you’ll find Paris, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge. A mother, a daughter, a fairy tale heroine, an artist’s model. Open this book and prepare to fall under the spell of these delightful, inventive poems.”— Nicole Cooley
“The poems in The Elephant House display a remarkable range, encompassing the autobiographical past, the vividly limned present, and the more timeless zone of the imagination, where the poet encounters historical and mythic figures such as Blake, Goya, Gregor Mendel, and Bluebeard. Carlson can be funny, as when she invents the Greek goddess Pornos, half-sister of Eros, but she is not afraid of ‘seeing the worst made visible’, as she writes in another poem. Often pleasure and fear are not far apart. The book’s third section contains a moving sequence about the life and death of Carlson’s mother, who was also a poet, and a sense of inheritance haunts the volume. What forms this varied collection into a coherent whole is Carlson’s peculiar sensibility, her eye attuned to the incongruous, and her sharp writing. This is an impressive debut. — Jeffrey Harrison
“Claudia Carlson’s poems are going places: breakfast with Blake, lunch with Goya, then a modeling session with Picasso and a night at Hotel Blythe, where the bedspreads are stiffer than road kill. Carlson’s poems combine wit and form with a painter’s eye for detail (boyblue hairbrush, origami trousers, spoons in velvet beds). And while one poem considers Sleeping Beauty’s dreams and another Blue Beard’s prenuptial agreements, this book is haunted by a mother with a ‘James Dean swagger’ and a ‘hot pink girlie taboo’ bathroom. Don’t enter The Elephant House expecting to pull up a chair and put up your feet—Carlson knows that “when you move around a lot, things don’t stay the same faster,” and you won’t want to miss a thing. — Meg Kearney
“Surprise after surprise awaits within Claudia Carlson’s first volume. There’s fresh, astonishing poetry on every page; powerful, playful and inventive. Inside The Elephant House is a wild and touching world, and you’ll be eager to explore every corner.” — Kate Light
“In this wide-eyed and unapologetic collection of poems, Claudia Carlson speaks to and for those who will not or cannot speak for themselves (parents, grandparents, lovers, strangers), imagines liaisons with the famous (Picasso, Blake, Goya, Piranesi, Bluebeard), and throughout brings us uncannily to ourselves.” — Andrea Hollander Budy
About the Author
Claudia Carlson's first book of poetry, The Elephant House, was published by Marsh Hawk Press in 2007. She co-edited The Poet's Grimm, an anthology of fairy tale poems, with Jeanne Marie Beaumont. Her poems have appeared in Court Green, Southern Poetry Review, The Cream City Review, Gargoyle, and nycbigcitylit, among others. She participates in brevitas, a group of poets who share drafts of short poems twice monthly online and was a founding member of River Writers, a writing workshop celebrating its 20th year. She has been included in the anthologies Love Rise Up (Benu Press, 2012), A Circle of Friends: Remembering Madeleine L. Engle (2009), and The Breath of Parted Lips II (CavanKerry Press, 2004). She's a mapmaker, illustrator, photographer, and award-winning designer specializing in art directing for small presses. In 2011, she had her first one-woman art show, at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, featuring her watercolor sketch portraits. She currently works as a graphic designer for American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel's affiliate to the International Red Cross. She lives in Manhattan.