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CHORUS

Omnidawn Press, 2023

winner of the 1st/2nd book award, chosen by Kazim Ali

Poems that incorporate multiple voices to embrace fragmentation, discord, and plurality.

At a time of simultaneous isolation and interconnection, this book is an inquiry into the edges of the self. Pushing back on capitalist messages of individuality, CHORUS instead seeks the multifaceted self that engages with the radical diversity that characterizes any healthy ecosystem or society. Moving between a remote canyon in New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest, New York City, the virtual world, the past, and the unstable future, the author asks, “Whose afterimage am I?”

 

The sprawling, celebratory, mourning chorus of this book is the sum of many voices; the words of other writers, poets, and artists are interwoven with the author’s words. This is a celebration of language’s capacity to supersede bodily limits, mortality, and existential loneliness. Daniela Naomi Molnar’s chorus encompasses violence, love, empathy, fear, a burning planet, a pandemic, heartbreak, desire, joy, and grief. Rather than seeking resolution, these poems look through the lens of a fragmented self, dwelling in plurality, discord, and harmony.

upcoming readings

July 12, 2023, 7:30 pm

Mother Foucault’s Bookshop

with Linda Russo, Evelyn Reilly, Orchid Tierney, and Timothy Shaner

Portland, Oregon

July 27, 2023, 8 pm

Chamber Music Northwest, Featured Poet, FESTIVAL FINALE: American Masterworks

Portland, Oregon

July 29, 2023, 8 pm

Chamber Music Northwest, Featured Poet, FESTIVAL FINALE: American Masterworks

Portland, Oregon

September 9, 2023, 11 am

Jemez Springs Public Library

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

“Breathless”? “Relentless”? “Insistent”? It’s like a torrent of impressions, but beneath the chaos there is this intention steadying the poem amidst all this activity. Meaning I don’t feel confused reading it. I feel this intentional guide firmly pointing me in directions. Like the poem is full of this assured energy; it guides the poet and reader forward. It’s a poetry of the forceful lyric.”

 

Read the whole review here.

book reviews

“Whose afterimage am I?” Molnar asks in her striking debut. These poems interrogate how the self connects and relates to the world around it, and how these influences shape a larger picture. Each titled “chorus” followed by a number (“chorus 1/ air” and “chorus 6/ map/ there is no time but the light remains”), they capture voices in conversation and harmony/disharmony with each other, “I’ve noticed how many good hearts have to stop/ to keep me clothed and fed/ I’ve noticed the callouses on other hands/ the splinters in paw pads/ the burrs in black feathers that, elsewise, ought to fly.”

 

Writers are frequently invoked, including Bayo Akomolafe (“In this epoch of porous boundaries, our bodies cannot be considered apart from the stories we tell of them”), Alice Notley, Nietzsche, and W.S. Merwin. Poems about Ojito Canyon (“light advances up the canyon named Ojito, little eye/ black scatter of magpies in deepening blue”) provide beautiful descriptions complicated by anxiety, “Worry seeps through the slightest crack. Keep/ the body. Thinking is a truceless act.” These poems do not deliver tidy answers to the dilemmas of existence, but rather investigate the division and fragmentation with lyric urgency.

Publisher’s Weekly

“CHORUS is a lyric wail stunned into awakening by crises both planetary and personal– though here, as in the physical universe, the two are not oppositional phenomena. Pieces made of fragmented verse, sinuous prose, and desperate frenzied plea make a rhetoric of salve, or salvation. As the poet writes, ‘The songbird is and is not a metaphor./The songbird is and is not gone.’ What I mean to say to you (I meaning me, you meaning absolutely you, the one reading this) is that this is a book that speaks from a body and to a body. I felt spoken to. Known. ‘Are you there. Is anyone there.’”

Kazim Ali, judge of the 1st/2nd Omnidawn Book Contest 2021

“Tendrilic, electric, Daniela Naomi Molnar’s CHORUS traces a mind in swift action. A near daybook, this collection is intimate and expansive, born of the solitudes highlighted in the pandemic, while resistant to the individualisms thrust upon us. It is a choral undertaking that points to the ecosystems of our languages, the subterranean connections between our lives and the world, and the “open portals” of books in our current fires. A stunning book by a poet I am excited to follow.” 

Solmaz Sharif, author of Customs

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