The Book of What Stays

Winner of the 2010 Book Prize in Poetry

About the Book

For any of us, what stays? For the arsonist’s wife who has not yet left? The devout saint trudging another mile in his nail-shoes? The lost couple in their dying moments in a Nebraska blizzard? The old woman who refuses to leave her home in Chernobyl? With an unflinching eye, James Crews gives us the forbidden love, forbidden unions, and secret lives that, whatever the loss, the attrition, the cost, we must acknowledge, must hold, must keep. And here, in Crews’s finely wrought, deeply felt poems, is their testimony.


You can read an excerpt from The Book of What Stays on the University of Nebraska Press website here.


“This is a marvelous book: a debut collection filled with the voice of an old soul, someone who has battled to claim what he knows. James Crews’ compassionate intelligence ranges wide, looking for stories within the stories of news accounts, saints, and mythological figures, sifting through experience and possibility to find moments of intense clarity and feeling.”—Teresa Scollon, ForeWord

The Book of What Stays is one of the very best original books of poetry I’ve read in the past couple of years . . . . I feel that while this book may be the one that stays, there’s a “part two” quickly on the way.”—Michael Simms, Coal Hill Review

“James Crews’ wonderful debut collection, The Book of What Stays, is a book that traffics comfortably in the world of sensory experience: in the image, in the sound, in the touch of skin on skin, and his predilection towards scene and narrative is a welcome advance—for this reader at least.”—Travis Mossotti, Saxifrage Press

“Crews’s aptly titled debut collection has staying power galore. In his lyrical, pitch-perfect renditions of regret and loss, this poet bears exacting witness to the parallel world of acceptance and renewal animated everywhere by the dizzying physics of human grace under pressure. In describing a homeless woman’s cart brimming with empty cans and copper wiring—the ‘shining and weighty cargo / of grief she’s headed to redeem’—Crews shows us where he’s going, too. And when he elsewhere promises ‘a fast river you can follow to its source / if you believe the motto here has always been Forward,’ the poet’s hard-won optimism is nothing less than a revitalizing tonic. When all is said, if not quite done, what stays with the reader are these bracing poems: sustenance for the undeniably long haul.”—David Clewell, author of Taken Somehow by Surprise

“In the ‘sweet language of what burns,’ James Crews explores a realm of love and loss—through images of hyacinths, lice, and loam, and through the secret lives of saints and gods, lovers, husbands, and poets. These poignant poems call us to the hope of our ‘breathing together.’”—Minnie Bruce Pratt, author of The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems

About the Author

James Crews was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Webster University where he studied with the current Poet Laureate of Missouri and alien abduction-expert, David Clewell. His chapbook, What Has Not Yet Left, won the 2009 Copperdome Prize from Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of two other chapbooks as well—Bending the Knot (Gertrude Press Chapbook Prize) and One Hundred Small Yellow Envelopes: A Poem After the Life and Work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Parallel Press). His poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2006 and 2009, basalt, Columbia, Prairie Schooner, Court Green, Crab Orchard Review and other journals. In 2009, Crews was the recipient of the Bernice Slote Emerging Writers Award from Prairie Schooner, and in 2010 he was a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska, working on a second book entitled The Thousandfold Consent of Things and Animals.