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Philip Memmer

Illustrated by John Fitzsimmons


These brief poems are cryptic gems, flinting across the pages and constructing (stone upon stone), as the title suggests, a lyric and meditative drama. Sisyphus contemplates his destiny and his act of building the mountain he climbs throughout the timelessness of fate, his only companion the stone he pushes and that always eludes him at the summit. Poet Philip Memmer re-inscribes the ancient myth by giving personhood and interiority to both characters in this dialogue, as they struggle, grapple, argue, cry out, resist each other, and acknowledge their inseparability. As in a long contentious marriage, Sisyphus asks: “Whose resounding silence / echoes your thoughts?” The stone’s replies spark from the insights flashing out of these poems.”–Carolyne Wright, author of Masquerade and This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems

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About the Author

PHILIP MEMMER is the author of five previous books of poems, including Pantheon, The Storehouses of the Snow, and Lucifer: A Hagiography, winner of the 2009 Idaho Prize for Poetry, all from Lost Horse Press. His work has appeared in such journals as Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Poetry London, in many anthologies, and in the Library of Congress’s Poetry 180 project.

A two-time Hawthornden Fellow, Memmer lives in Upstate New York, where he founded and directs the YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse, serves as Publisher at Tiger Bark Press, and teaches creative writing at Hamilton College.

About the Illustrator

JOHN FITZSIMMONS is an internationally exhibited painter and printmaker known for his figurative works. He graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1977. Fitzsimmons’ work uses the human figure to work towards the “non-verbal idea;” in other words, the idea that can only be expressed visually. He was born in 1953 and grew up in Upstate New York, and currently lives and works in Syracuse.


“A speaker pushes a stone uphill for eternity, reflecting on his lot: the fruitlessness, responsibility and strange power of his position. Meanwhile, the stone–refusing to be limited to a dead weight–reflects right back. Philip Memmer creates stark, beautiful, unsettling two-handers between a kind of John Q. Sisyphus and a gnomic, tricksy, occasionally needy Stone. This breathtaking new collection resembles an origami fortune-teller: all possible fates are pre-written, hidden in the folds, but what matter are the questions we ask in the getting-there. A heartbreaking, funny, and ultimately redemptive work which expands the heart’s horizon: I will keep returning to it.”–Penny Boxall, author of In Praise of Hands

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