Earth Enough by Stephen Williams


Like riddles, the poems in Earth Enough enact, in miniature, concealment and revelation. Scrutinizing and then peeling back the surfaces of nature, history, urban and domestic life, and language itself, Earth Enough makes its way among the world’s unities and multiplicities, its coming together and its falling apart, charting the metamorphic churn of reality—moment by moment and syllable by syllable—and its passing away.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 110
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: July, 2021
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-31-9


In his prophetic “Conversation about Dante,” Osip Mandelstam describes poetic speech as a durable carpet woven out of water. And ornament is what makes this carpet good and alive because it preserves the traces of its origin as a “performed piece of nature,” in which animal, vegetable, steppe, Scythia, Egypt, and barbarians are always speaking, seeing, and acting. In Earth Enough, Stephen Williams asks, “What was sacrificed? / And what only annihilated?” He answers in stanzas and lines vividly woven and durably imagined, whose music aspires to the condition of nature. Classical in poise, these poems are apocalyptic in their leaps and gasps of thought, riddles and songs as alert as they are auroral, full of an otherworldly light nevertheless paleontological in the fantasia memory enacts in them. Elemental and ornamental at once, Earth Enough isn’t. You’ll want more. —Peter O’Leary

I see double in the title Earth Enough. Stephen Williams is the sybil he sees with “eyes / so full of looking.” He’s the hermit on the tarot card holding a star “up / to eye-level” with eyes closed, listening to light as it enters his hooded cloak. The poet sharpens our vision to this softly sufficient word, enough, twining it with Earth. It means something minimal and maximal at once, much like “the line is the Nile” in the book. Williams’ lines are finely wrought, hammered out with patience, each pause sufficient to itself. The eye is the star of these poems, as I see it. Our eye glides down the page like our sun sinking into sea. The poet “save[s] a seam of gold” for us, a “solar / ore” with strength enough to bind the book. This book is humane. We see that we’re sufficient. —Tirzah Goldenberg



They agreed that the problem of evil
was academic, that a more sober
approach would acknowledge the scar
in space the atom bomb left
meant once and for all that no veil,
rent, no goddess’ or judge’s robes’
authority called upon, no pathos felt
welling in the eyes would trace the arc
the poem scalpel-sharp would make to sever
from itself its knowing. The dawn grew whiter.
The day dawned and he woke to his verse.
The circumcised heart withers
into the truth. This is the lord it serves.
This is the hole in which it writhes.


Stephen WilliamsStephen Williams lives in Chicago. This is his first book.

Additional information

Weight 7.3 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in