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Still Life

Mcsweeney's Literary Arts Fund

A Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Confronted with a terminal cancer diagnosis, Jay Hopler (1970–2022)—author of the National Book Award–finalist The Abridged History of Rainfall—got to work. The result of that labor is Still Life, a collection of poems that are heartbreaking, terrifying, and deeply, darkly hilarious. In an attempt to find meaning in a life ending right before his eyes, Hopler squares off against monsters real and imagined, personal and historical, and tries not to flinch. This work is no elegy; it’s a testament to courage, love, compassion, and the fierceness of the human heart. It’s a violently funny but playfully serious fulfillment of what Arseny Tarkovsky called the fundamental purpose of art: a way to prepare for death, be it far in the future or very near at hand.

Author Bio

Jay Hopler was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1970, and died in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2022. His first collection of poetry, Green Squall (2006), was chosen by Louise Glück as the winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize; his second collection, The Abridged History of Rainfall (2016), was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry. As an editor and translator, his works include The Killing Spirit: An Anthology of Murder for Hire (1998), Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (edited with his spouse, poet and Renaissance scholar Kimberly Johnson, 2013), and The Museum of Small Dark Things: 25 Poems by Georg Trakl (2016). Hopler was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a fellowship from the Lannan Foundation, a Whiting Award, a Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, two Florida Book Awards, and the Rome Prize in Literature.