They Sing to Her Bones
Winner of the 1999 New Issues Poetry Prize
Foreword by Marianne Boruch
Joy Manesiotis is a poet whose eye is generous as well as sensitive to the perfect detail – the “small glass beads,” the “lit windows.” Her vision relies on sound: the ear first catches “voices loosed across dusty paths” and the head then turns to them. It is this weaving of the senses, this consciousness, that makes Manesiotis’ poems so easy to inhabit. The poet finds home in moments rather than places and lives in a kind of timelessness, as if everything she has ever touched still wraps itself around her.
“Manesiotis is only one generation removed from that most basic American fact that almost everyone in this country came from elsewhere; that we who follow are all mutts, genetically or culturally or both. She’s in that familiar nevertheless curious position – grandchild of immigrants and exiles, in this case from Greece – and she uses it without sentimentality to get at the sweet and the dark of such an equation: what is left behind never quite translates . . . As much as song guides these poems – and often Manesiotis’ early training as a musician is obvious, especially in wonderfully fractured pieces where a more lyric sound is keyed, as in ‘Fugue,’ ‘O Beautiful Boy,’ or in ‘Fledgling’ – a certain ‘not singing’ is an equal force here, one that finds in stillness and its children (painting, photographs, scenes meticulously sketched from the past) a kind of eternal, seemingly wordless presence.”
—Marianne Boruch, from the Foreword
“The lyric impulse is alive and well in They Sing to Her Bones, a magnificent first book that marries lament with the music of surviving. In these elegant poems, Manesiotis reminds us that memory is not a static map of the past, but a place itself, like the author’s beloved Greece, from which we launch the infinite possibility of our lives each day. Let us welcome these beguiling songs of what was and what still might be.”
“‘Inconsolable, loose grief, wild / and keening’ is Joy Manesiotis’ formidable subject, anchored in family stories, rigorous observation, and vivid writing that captures its manifold features and nails it down.”
Joy Manesiotis was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Such journals as The Marlboro Review, The American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Antioch Review have published her work. She has been awarded a Poetry Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Prairie Schooner’s Reader’s Choice Award, and a Graves Award in the Humanities. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Redlands.