Exit, Civilian

2011 National Poetry Series Winner
Selected by Patricia Smith
University of Georgia Press, April 2012

One of Coldfront’s Best Poetry Books of 2012
Best Books of 2012 in The Volta
Ron Slate’s Favorite Books of 2012

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“The prisons, courthouses, and hideaways featured in Novey’s National Poetry Series winner are very real, but we don’t encounter so much bars, barbs, and barbed wire as metaphysical shrinkage and change: “Whisper at the door/ of the little prison/ and your voice will become a coin.” Startling.”

Library Journal

“[T]he book reveals superb acts of attention, by a writer whose reliable moral sense matches her first-rate ear.”

Publishers Weekly

“Like early French practitioners Bertrand, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, Novey uses the (prose poem) to disrupt bourgeois sensibilities by drawing attention to the unseemly…imperative and timely.”

-Marcela Sulak, Los Angeles Review of Books

 “In Exit, Civilian, the thing is the prison, intractably present – and freedom, more than simply a life outside jail, comprises an infinite speculation on the meaning of itself.”

Ron Slate, On The Seawall

“Novey’s work has always had a subversive quality, exploring unsanctioned facets of identity, and her discoveries here are just as fresh as in her first collection, if more openly dangerous and political. . . . [Her] images and scenes are meticulously constructed, crystalline, inviting us into a parallel world that reflects back the darker parts of our own.”

Michael Simon, Denver Quarterly

“Novey stretches beyond depictions of inmates’ lives to explore the relationship of the prison, as edifice and as idea, to the wider community, the ‘electoral world’ beyond its walls…”

–Rowyda Amin, Sidekick Books

“This is a smart and immaculately crafted book that deserves and rewards you.”

Mathias Slavina, The Volta

“In the face of imprisonment, Novey’s poems contain soothing imagery and encourage attention to small details, the  “buttercups and mittens,” small points of hope in a world of “little prisons.”

– Melinda Wilson, Coldfront Magazine 

 “Inspired by her time teaching in the Bard Prison Initiative, this book is full of poems situated in real circumstances, oriented by the concrete details and haunting questions of interacting on a daily basis with the world of prisons. It’s a striking collection.”

Jacob Muncy, Plaza de Armas

“The words ‘spare’ and ‘stark’ repeat often in conversations about this book, and they are apt, but enough emphasis cannot be given to the quiet but vibrant resonance of these poems.”

–Ryan Sanford Smith, White Walls/Black Ink

Exit, Civilian stretches the overarching metaphor of prisons in so many unexpected and mind-expanding directions.”

–Vincent Toro, English Kills Review

“We only imagine ourselves free. Idra Novey’s stark, inventive poems hurtle forth with brash lyricism, forcing us to reflect on our roles as captives, alternate swinging open and slamming shut the prison doors. There is no work like this, no tales so beautiful and hurtful, no stanzas that bite this hard and linger this long.

PATRICIA SMITH, author of Blood Dazzler

In “Exit Civilian,” Idra Novey takes Vasko Popa’s “little box” and morphs it into a “little prison.” The sweetness of the name “little prison” draws us in, and Novey tracks her discomfort with the justice system with surprising and illuminating tenderness. Novey has taught for the Bard Prison Initiative— one poem zooms in on the poignant detail of the crumpling of a wedding dress as it moves into and out of the prison, another imagines a mother named “Trial” giving birth to a child, “Verdict.” I finished this book with these words still in my head: “Do you want to hear more / About the little prison / Have you noticed / It is everywhere.” These poems truly change what and how we see.

MATTHEA HARVEY, author of Modern Life 

“Enter an apple / And come out the teeth marks / In its yellowed core,” writes Idra Novey. In this spare, remarkable collection, she harnesses and transforms prison experience into a visionary exploration where boundaries dissolve, and we find ourselves transformed.

ARTHUR SZE, author of The Gingko Light