Instructions In My Absence


Instructions In My Absence


Winner of the 2016 Palettes & Quills Biennial Chapbook Contest (judged by Alan Britt), Instructions In My Absence is the second chapbook by poet Sharon Alexander.

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Praise for her award-winning chapbook:

With precise diction and syntax, Sharon Alexander escorts readers on a journey through her complex psyche filled with conflict and wistful observation. Through an ability to observe her world accurately, Alexander clarifies a vision that explores childhood and adolescence to blend them gracefully into a mature sensibility. Alexander's language is inventive and symbolic: "His flesh / a secret architecture / etched in ink" and "my body / a ticking wire / anchored to the belly / of the world," a language that stimulates imagination through an invocation of the senses, plus a sensitivity to a musical lexicon that creates a vision the reader can experience as though gazing through an opened window directly into the poet's inner being: "Crows clutter the sky, / wings rattle my windows - the horizon crooked as a broken bone" and "I heard a sizzle as the plastic pool chair / melts and oozes like grilled cheese, / the burnt smell clinging to our clothes." A highly enjoyable book, Instructions in My Absence is written by a cultivated sensibility allowing poet and reader to stroll hand in hand through its pages as naturally as "the basil I pinched from the pot on the porch / so pungent my fingers were fragrant long after we were gone."

- Alan Britt, Final Judge of the Palettes & Quills 5th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Contest


There has always been a luminous sorcery to Sharon Alexander’s poetry, yet the breath-taking transformations in her new collection, Instructions in My Absence, mark these poems as her most extraordinary work yet. Both a family album and ledger of intimate betrayals, these poems also track the arc of sensibility in a superb sequence of coming-of-age poems. The speaker’s California dreams both ripen and darken as she faces her own mortality as well. Like night-blooming cereus, Sharon Alexander’s poems both thrive and blossom in darkness. Don’t do without this superb new book.

- David St. John

Sharon Alexander’s winning chapbook speaks in lyric narratives, songs, and prayers. Her use of personal historical events as jumping-off points serve to broaden our awareness of public history: we travel back to 1959 and find the family’s red Caddy outside waiting in the driveway, the smell of Pall Mall wafting through the living room, while father sips Sanka. We are witness to the Zenith TV on which Americans observed Khrushchev in black and white, “burying us.” “Instructions in My Absence” time travels and speaks in many voices: a daughter’s elegiac narrative to her father and mother, a grown woman’s faint grief of being childless,  a doleful look at the complex succession of generations. Alexander’s poems are situated precisely where she intends, creating a poignant geography of place and time; there is no mistake that when she retreats, she is pulling back with eyes wide open, with that …  “animal fear/driving us back into the dark.”

- Carine Topal, “Tattooed”