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Beneath the obvious beauty of Lisa Dordal’s poetry lies a subtle ferocity that threatens to undo the reader on every page of Water Lessons. “Anyone can become / animal or a flicker of light” warns the speaker as she embarks on a journey of recovery: of the memories surrounding a mother’s addiction and death; of a father’s dementia, which softens him even as it steals him away; and of the speaker’s own complicity in mid-century suburban oblivion, a complicity that makes both a mother’s and a Black maid’s miseries equally tragic. Dordal demands that we not only see the past, but that we step into its deceptively gentle tide, one that sweeps us back to the people, places, and eras that still haunt us. In these poems, no one is truly safe, no one is truly innocent, and no one is truly gone. Water Lessons teaches us that swimming against the current of remembrance is futile. We can only trust the water to hold us without drowning us, and to return us to some shore, even if where we land is not where we were first submerged. —Destiny O. Birdsong, author of Negotiations, longlisted for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards
Lisa Dordal is a poet and teacher based in Nashville, Tennessee. She received a Master of Fine Arts (in poetry) from Vanderbilt University in 2011 and a Master of Divinity, also from Vanderbilt, in 2005. She teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt.
Lisa is a Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets University Prize and the Robert Watson Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in RHINO Poetry, Narrative, Great River Review, Best New Poets 2015, The Sun, Cave Wall, Bellevue Literary Review, CALYX, Ninth Letter, Rove Poetry, The Greensboro Review, Vinyl Poetry, storySouth, Connotation Press, and The Feminist Wire.
Her first full-length collection of poetry, Mosaic of the Dark, was a finalist for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and is available from Black Lawrence Press.