“[A]bashedly self-conscious and evocative, capacious yet taut lyricism… [Rivkin] constructs desire as the cornerstone of autobiographical poetry…This collection doesn’t just present intimacy, it dramatizes the difficulty of even talking about intimacy.” —Hannah Baker Saltmarsh, Georgia Review
“Rivkin’s deft play with image, memory, and form provides readers a fascinating mode of meditation. The book is generous in its vision and openness, and strong in its assertion that all relationships are complex — whether they are with family, time, language, or knowing itself.” —John Dudek, Kenyon Review
“An expansive rumination on the self, what it means to succeed those who came before you, as well as the pursuit of desire.” —Cade Johnson, Zyzzyva
“Poetry is Joshua Rivkin’s art, but he approaches it with the keen observational powers of a scientist.” —Geoff Wichert, 15 Bytes
“This strong debut rigorously and restlessly addresses human desire.” —Publishers Weekly
“Unbeknownst to us, we have been awaiting a book like Joshua Rivkin’s Suitor, a book for our times, of such astonishing candor and wicked, sharp seeing into the inscrutable nature of maleness in our times. Driven by a probing intellect, the poems here, principled in song, at once heartbreakingly unveil and render complex our current crisis of manhood, whose only resolution lies in such tender, focused, and incisive language. Reading this book, I assure you, will broadly awaken you to your own journey or someone sitting next to you, and then, that person next to them.” —Major Jackson, author of Roll Deep and Hoops
“For opulence of imagination and spareness of language, for musical savvy and analytical rigor, for a frankness that is both tender and unnerving in its nakedness, Joshua Rivkin’s Suitor is one of the best books of poetry, let alone first books, that I’ve read in a very long time. His prose meditation about his father and the moral culpability of the scientist, his lyrics about sex as a blueprint of the psyche, and his nuanced understanding of how children and parents create the story under the story of our civilization, is mature, formally masterful, and refreshingly free of moralizing cant, blame, or the desire to shame. Best of all, for all its tough-minded skepticism, it’s a book replete with an undeluded hopefulness.” —Tom Sleigh, author of House of Fact, House of Ruin and The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees
“In Suitor, Joshua Rivkin’s field of vision is lyrically sweeping, moving through a mother’s series of boyfriends, to the pursuit of revisitations with a father known ‘best by departures and arrivals,’ to revisionist history, the speaker’s own suitors—as well as the speaker as suitor, a word which comes ‘from the Latin secutor, to follow.’ Here is a tenderly quiet and rigorous study on human behavior in familial, historical, and domestic spaces—of the body, the house, of intimacy and legacy. Like a tinkerer with a delicate touch, Rivkin attempts to untangle the knots of a kite unspooled—’a kite / caught in a tree high above ground / and there’s no way to bring it down / without breaking it or the branches.’ Yet what is ruptured in these poems is also a site of connection: of rendering what is lost over time and regained in memory as a bridge between the self and the world around him; Rivkin’s presence and awareness are tremendous gifts. He does not ‘tal[k] around anything,’ rather, he moves and bears witness across time, in and though bodies, tender moments of love, lust, and disappointment. The ‘past is not forgotten’ and the ‘story doesn’t change,’ but Rivkin’s sightline is always honest, seeking, and true. His is an astonishing debut.” —Diana Khoi Nguyen, author of Ghost Of and Finalist for the National Book Award
“In this dreamlike, lifelike gem of a book, Joshua Rivkin opens us to our deepest humanity, which is to say our deepest desire and fallibility and want. Suitor is a book of so many selves, all wanting . . . what? Connection may be one word for it, but, it seems to me, the mystery of what we truly wish for is the beating heart and restless soul of this book. With critical rigor and rigorous heart, Joshua Rivkin holds the mirror to the whole burning trouble of what we’re willing to do to call the thing we most want ours. Sometimes the answer is nothing. Sometimes the answer is burn the world down. This book is a secret and a marvel. I think it’s what we mean by confession, if we’re really honest with ourselves. Which, this book seems to remind us, we so rarely are.” —Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic and The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart
Read poems from Suitor in The New Yorker, Memorious, Slate, Quarterly West, The Adroit Journal , The Southern Review, and Mapping Literary Utah
I say you and mean our life together
will be a picturesque postcard
from the Cape of Good Cheer,
the Cape of Wonder.
Other days it will be a typhoon,
warm waters gathered into storm.
I am divided
and unsure in so many things
the end of every suitor is rest.
To touch the hem of your dress
or the seam of your suit
and leave it. The body waits.
We have the serious business
of living: unpack the boxes
of books and unroll newspaper
from glasses, fill the cabinets
with bowls and measuring cups.
We invite our friends.
Join us. We’ve made a place at our table,
the table we bought at the flea market
and carried five blocks home.
I set it with your plates
and my silverware.
– first appeared in Quarterly West: 94