The White Book


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Product Description

Poems by

Alex Grant

Poetry chapbook, 37 pages, $10 cover price

($3.00 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-126-5

Release date: 2008


About The Author


Alex Grant’s book Chains & Mirrors(NCWN/Harperprints) won the 2006 Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award(best collection by a North Carolina poet.) He received Kakalak’s 2006 Poetry Prize and WMSU’s 2004 Pavel Srut Poetry Fellowship, and has been a recent runner-up or finalist for Discovery/The Nation, The Pablo Neruda and the Arts & Letters Poetry Prizes, and The Dorset, Brittingham, Felix Pollak, Tupelo Open and Lena-Miles Wever Todd book Prizes, among others. His poems have appeared or are upcoming in numerous national journals and anthologies, including Meridian’s Best New Poets 2007. A native Scot, he lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with his wife Tristi, his dangling participles and his Celtic fondness for excess.


Brilliant. Alex Grant has a weird and fascinating mind. In The White Book, he combines a glittering sardonic wit with a sort of punch-drunk fatalistic spirituality to produce poems that “swing…on lengths of radiant silk.”
— Joanna Catherine Scott



My Grandfather’s neck would bulge
with veins thick as a horse’s cock
when he swung the axe to the wood,
the thunk of metal on rings
cracking the morning air.
Wood flung on the fire,
flames swept upward
in the huge fart of the leather bellows,
screaming sparks crackling
up the black chimney.

Dark days, indeed, made bearable
only by the thick turnip soup
my Grandmother cauldron-boiled
over the wet peat heaved
from sullen bogs. Fat shards of pepper
would float like frog-spawn
in the turgid brew, daring
the faint-hearted to slurp down
the lung-sticking potage.
No stranger to daring myself,
I gobbled the turnip innards
like a starving goat in a midden.

O, red and purple-veined vegetable,
I stand before you now,
in this suburban supermarket,
consider your heft and proportions,
shiny, bulbous and stippled, waxy,
like my Grandmother’s skin, purple
as my Grandfather’s nose.


In the beginning, they were insignificant – like black
spider mites, or immature fruit flies. We were blind
to their subtle swelling, their shifting shapes

and colors, suddenly lurid green, slick and shiny
as obscene bottles. The years turned like a mill wheel,
and we retreated deeper into the belly of the house,

and few could recall a time when the steady hum
of their wings didn’t thicken the air. One of us will
sometimes foray into their part of the house – always,

the reports are worse than the time before – they have
become cannibals: they devise new methods of torture:
their young subsist on the bodies of spiders.

And they grow – always – stronger, more ruthless.
We have lived so long in this part of the house,
where no light penetrates, that our young have begun

to be born blind – sightless, parchment skin stretched
over useless orbs, like unfinished paintings. Some
who remember when we lived outside of the house,

in the trees, in the fields and hedgerows, say that
our time will come again. They say that one day,
we will look up at the moon again, from high

in the wet branches of Sycamore trees,
and see the earth, so far below, and swing,
once again, on lengths of radiant silk.


“A man who never cooks just isn’t worth
a fuck,” my grandad always said, while spuds
were boiling hard above the reeking hearth.
He’d plunge his wrinkled arms into the suds
and mutter something choice about the lack
of moral fibre in the world today,
how he could show those earring-wearing slack-
arsed bums that cooking is the only way
a man who cannot paint or write or dredge
a sound from any instrument can strive
to be the equal of the privileged,
those educated fools whose pointless lives
remind us of the need for making good
on promises to live the way we should.

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