Winner of a Lambda Literary Foundation Award!
Mysterious Acts by My People is a fearless exploration of love, grief, violence, and humor. Wetlaufer documents the search for comfort and deliverance in language rich with materiality and great pleasure. The lyrical vivacity of these poems reveals a world where bodies are capable of miracles and deterioration, tremendous loss, and grace. Published in March 2014 by Sibling Rivalry Press.
(cover design by Mona Z. Kraculdy, cover image by Zeke Tucker)
Praise for Mysterious Acts:
"Oh, to be Valerie Wetlaufer and write poems perfectly. Mysterious Acts by My People will make you think: this is love—no, this is violence; this is violence—no, this is love; this is comfort—no, this is harm; this is harm—no, this is comfort. The stories she shares and the secrets she imparts are harrowing and vivid, frighteningly beautiful in their metaphorical renderings. There is no other way to say what these poems say: Valerie got it hauntingly right. Her images strike so hard and so true and will stay with you forever."
"The mysterious acts in Valerie Wetlaufer’s striking debut are many, and those acts are magnified by her keen attention to the ruptures and illusions of human longing. Love and Eros are threaded through her taut lines, her finely crafted stanzas. Perhaps most startling are the poems in which Wetlaufer takes her readers back into a reconstructed and imagined past in which a 19th century Midwestern woman’s psyche and passion, her madness and her revenges and loves are made manifest, imagined, shaped and voiced. History here is harrowed, made new, made strange by being brought into language, into the light. Mysterious Acts by My People marks the arrival of a poet who possesses great gifts of imagination, spirit, music and heart."
"Valerie Wetlaufer’s poems range from “Selections from the Asylum Nurses’ Reports”, a chilling poem about the life and imprisonment of Mary Sweeney, who lived in the nineteenth century to “Love Poem in Three Parts,” a personal love poem which includes an early attraction to girls in these wonderful lines: “those glossy girls/in magazines I kissed until the pages were limp/and newsprint showed through the faces,” as well as this great line: “In Florida, it rains like God hates you.” In “Frippery and Demise” we’re treated to a catalogue of the gowns of Marie Antoinette with all the trimmings: “serpentine garlands of silver and gold/lace, fields of artificial flowers, feathers,/tassels and silk ribbon bows, rosettes/and ruffles, passementerie…” Mysterious Acts by My People is frank, funny, vulnerable, and very human."
These poems are delicate phrasings of violent emotions and acts. There’s a careful balancing act going on in this book, where one poem might be close to your ear and intimate, and the next pulls away and adopts an authorial reserve. I love both stances, and these poems draw you in.
—Rebecca Hazelton, at Bull City Press
The announcement from publisher Bryan Borland:
Poems from the book published online (sometimes in earlier versions):
There's also a Tumblr account for the book (with words and images related to the collection).