Words for a Lost Year by Murray Shugars


Arranged in four sections named for the seasons, these poems trace a relationship through the arc of a symbolic year, exploring desire and place and identity. Insofar as they express a speaker’s state of mind, these are lyric poems. The author says: “These carnivorous lyrics, backhand love poems, and sorta sonnets embody the gut-punch poetic.”


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 98
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: December, 2023
  • ISBN 978-1-953252-97-5


Spinoza and Springsteen walk into a bar . . . and the result is Murray Shugars’ Words for a Lost Year, helmed by philosophy and fueled by desire. The voice in these poems comes at you with the bruised romanticism of the lyric and the full-throated keening of a rock song. The weather is what holds them together, but if you put your ear to the page you can hear the howling heart that just might blow them apart. —Johanna Sutherland

Secret, shuddering, blithe, Murray Shugars’ poems impart that quality of the heart that Lorca called duende. I say impart because their art, which is subtle and investigative, seems to channel deep image, deep song, the big-B Beat in Kerouac’s original sense of beatitude. Here is battlefield, Stanford’s. Here is craft as what it is, ritual. In Shugars’ Words for a Lost Year, writing is the rite of seasons, but this is no simple or unearned pastoral meditation. These poems ruminate with the year—on art, on each other, on love, on distances, on the deep time that weighs like weather. These are poems that return, poems to return to, because here are seasons of the heart. —Matthew Salyer

In Murray Shugars’ third collection, Words for a Lost Year, poems function as meaningful artifacts and assorted treasures that are revelatory and lyrical, conjuring memories and quotidian moments held beneath a powerful lens of honest reflection, with glimpses of “sunstruck snowflakes,” “a discarded flake of sky,” and “Night’s white asterisks.” The poems here—whether in Muskegon, Vicksburg, or Mosul—offer clarity, discoveries, and beautiful truths like days remembered in any given year. —Gina Ferrara, Amiss

Here we have a Mississippi poet who has international sensibilities. Murray Shugars’ poems press together an American and a global awareness of lyric poetry with wit and intelligence. His poems evoke Frank O’Hara’s and Frank Stanford’s, not to forget Sylvia Plath’s or translations of Federico Garcia Lorca’s. Shugars writes that “maybe you’ll invent a lipstick like a French poem that chokes roses” in one poem. He wishes us to “wake in a world where we are possible” in another. Words for a Lost Year abounds with revelations and pleasures that draw us in. —Ata Moharreri


When the Levees Broke
and the Moon Surrendered the Stars

Each morning she watched me
Make chalk drawings on the blackboard
Before other students
Shuffled in to first hour English

I drew the cloud cats
Dancing with the rain fish
I drew the blue ’coon
And the haunted playground
I drew the doomed river’s
Dime-store soliloquy
The wounded moon’s final phase
I drew the buzz saw at Wilson’s Mill
Screaming through pine logs
I drew the sawdust piling up
Faster than the shadow boy could sweep

She folded the note
She left on my desk
Into a paper crane


Murray ShugarsMurray Shugars is a professor of English at Alcorn State University. He and his wife, Sandra, live in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He has published two previous poetry collections, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (2010) and Snakebit Kudzu (2013), both with Dos Madres Press.


Chad Poovey is a sculptor and printmaker who occasionally writes fiction. His illustrations in this volume are hand-printed linoleum cuts. His collection of short-stories, Banana Taffy and Other Tales of Love, Madness, and Revenge, was published in 2023.

Additional information

Weight 6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in