Vanishing Acts  (Southern Illinois UP, 2019)   BUY FROM SIU PRESS    BUY FROM AMAZON   (Cover Image: “Loot Bag” by Martin Wittfooth)

Vanishing Acts (Southern Illinois UP, 2019)



(Cover Image: “Loot Bag” by Martin Wittfooth)

Praise for Vanishing Acts

WITH ITS COMPLEX IMAGISTIC SHINGLING and sensitivity to a world accelerating its own erasure, Vanishing Acts serves as a countermeasure to the fear of such disappearance. For these poems don’t evaporate, they resonate. They “rise in ecstatic waves” of the mythical, the marvelous, and the revelatory as Barker two-steps between tenderness and menace. Filtered through a fabulist lens, these cinematic compositions, with their salute to Ponge, startle with such extraordinary figurative language as “wolves. . . leaving a loose crewel of bloody paw prints on the marble steps of the opera house.” Barker’s poems are exquisitely bizarre documentations, both ethnographic and zoographic, lit with such intelligence and insight that I’m swayed to believe there’s hope for us after all. 

—Simone Muench, author of Wolf Centos

VANISHING ACTS IS AN ARCHIVE OF CURIOSITIES, homage to the ardor of our exhausting, consuming, and beautiful preoccupations. Barker's imagination is as resourceful as it is original, re-purposing whatever elsewheres it has at hand: the Daddy Long Legs; the Elephants of Carthage; the Marquis de Sade reincarnated into a fly. Its title suggests the disappearance of a world we'll never know in the same way again, but this is also a book about what persists, what re-creates, and what refuses, beyond reason or the appearances of things, to ever really die.”

—David Keplinger, author of Another City

BRIAN BARKER’S NEW BOOK, Vanishing Acts, is a collection of darkly comic fabular prose poems for the “nearly extinct.” Barker brings his sardonic humor, mythic sensibility, and linguistic inventiveness to these deadpan character-driven vignettes, apocalyptic beast fables, and dramatic monologues spoken by a range of quirky absurdists and grotesques. Although life in Barker’s prose poems is marked by a sense of omnipresent menace, the abiding mood is one of wry appreciation of mystery and marvels, even at their most bizarre or calamitous.

 —Anna Journey, author of The Atheist Wore Goat Silk

VANISHING ACTS IS KALEIDOSCOPIC in its brilliance. These prose poems are gems in which wolves’ “fur coats will be like saints’ beards soaked in wind,” grass sprouts from every step of the elk, and cottonmouths “swim out of the hair of the drowned.” These poems are masterful and strange, depicting the twilight of human cruelty in a world on the cusp of rebirth. Inhabited by characters ranging from a strong man and Evel Knievel to a fish thief and monks, each of Barker’s poems is cinematically adroit and lavishly steeped in a sacred gloom: a girl tells the police officer questioning her that the “dog was clear like water, like a ghost trying to get in out of the rain;” soldiers killed in a civil war reenactment are forgotten and bereft of an opportunity for resurrection. Barker flourishes the approaching darkness with sparks and makes uncanny joys in his little, irresistible worlds.

 —Alex Lemon author of Another Last Day and Feverland: A Memoir in Shards