Absurdity is just as much an occasion for dread and fear as it is for laughter in Florencia Varela’s triumphant debut. Here, the “heart of/ losing lies/ in us” and “The American dream splits,” but that’s only the start of the story — what then? These lyric sequences—where the central questions of family and country, of personal memory and collective history return in ever-new incantatory and interrogative fragments — demonstrate how we can (and how we must) go on: “dead of night in the middle/ of Nowhere/ I remember/ a place of reason/ and laugh.” Despite our world’s penchant for loss and distancing, Varela achieves a rare thing: She takes us into the deepest confidence one person can offer another. We are lucky to be so entrusted.
Sarah V. Schweig, author of Take Nothing with You (University of Iowa Press, 2016)
The Returns is a book of beautiful returns; repetition and evolution push these sequences forward while they continue to fold back on themselves. Family, memory and language—those huge, bottomless subjects—are woven together with intimately rendered domestic details, making these poems impossible not to believe. You’ll leave this book feeling like you know her. You’ll also leave it wondering how she was able to write in a voice that feels ancient and wise beyond her years.
Matthew Rohrer, author of The Sky Contains the Plans (Wave Books, 2020)
“We are grieving things,” Florencia Varela writes in The Returns, and much like the state of grief itself, these elegant poems are composed of philosophical questioning, sadness, and moments of sharp focus. The four long poems in this debut collection travel from the domestic to the political, from death to new life, with a straightforward diction that contradicts and complicates. The poems search for logic, for faith, for an intimacy and knowledge of the world: “What we know is what / I bring to words / across the table at night.” And these wise poems know a great deal.
Brett Fletcher Lauer, author of A Hotel in Belgium (Four Way Books, 2014)
Florencia Varela was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Previously her work has appeared in journals such as DIAGRAM, Drunken Boat, Painted Bride Quarterly, Western Humanities Review, jubilat, Washington Square Journal, Gulf Coast, Phantom Limb, Paterson Literary Review, and Vinyl. Her chapbook, Outside of Sleep, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2012. She received her MFA in poetry at Columbia University. She currently lives in New York City, and produces impact campaigns for documentary films.