My 2nd collection of poetry – Water Lessons – is available for pre-order at the link below in case you are interested! The publication date is April 2022. It also will be available on Amazon (and might be listed already).

To order Water Lessons:


Through deeply personal and culturally grounded narratives, Water Lessons explores the relationship between reality and imagination, faith and doubt, presence and absence, as the speaker grapples with multiple dimensions of grief arising from her mother’s alcoholism and eventual death; her father’s deepening dementia; and her own childlessness. Against the backdrop of these personal griefs, the speaker scrutinizes the patriarchal underpinnings of the world she grew up in as well as her complicity in systemic racism as a white girl growing up in the 70s and 80s. Woven throughout the book are the speaker’s meditations on a divine presence that, for her, is both keenly felt and necessarily elusive, mirroring the speaker’s ultimate celebration of her unborn daughter as a “lovely fiction” who is both here and not here.


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

Water Lessons provides one of the most profound encounters with the human psyche we’ve found on the page. If you remember flipping through vintage anatomy textbooks, the kind with transparent pages of organs and muscles and bones, then you might begin to understand how Lisa Dordal’s poems work their magic—by clear and accurate layering of what is past pressed against what is present, the inner workings of the human condition are mapped with stunning veracity. At the core of this oscillation between here and there, then and now, is a mother’s long-ago but still deeply felt death and a father’s dementia—an ache that admits ‘there is no such thing / as a half-life for grief,’ a confluence of time that can no longer tell the difference between love or death, ‘like seeing stars // reflected on a smooth surface / of water, and not knowing / if you’re looking at the sea / or the sky.’ This book will leave you stunned and aching in its wake. What conjuring. What insight. What truth, unmarred and deeply examined.

Nickole Brown, author of Fanny Says & Jessica Jacobs, author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going

Lisa Dordal is a Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University and is the author of Mosaic of the Dark, which was a finalist for the 2019 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry; Water Lessons, which was listed by Lambda Literary as one of their most anticipated books for 2022; and Next Time You Come Home (2023). Lisa is a Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Robert Watson Poetry Prize, and the Betty Gabehart Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in The Sun, Narrative, Image, The New Ohio Review, Best New Poets, Greensboro Review, RHINO, Ninth Letter, and CALYX.

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