The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here by Alison Stagner


The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here by Alison Stagner


The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here by Alison Stagner was selected by Nick Flynn as the winner of the 2018 BOAAT Book Prize.

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The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here by Alison Stagner

Winner of the 2018 BOAAT Book Prize

Foreword by Nick Flynn

Preorder: $15

Ships October 15th, 2019


“Alison Stagner is restless, in the sense that her poems manifest in many forms, yet she is also grounded, in a deep history, in the sense that her vision is wide-ranging. There are myths here, and fairy tales, and archetypes. There are moments in The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here that seem to come to us from another time, another era—an era of work-bags and bayonettes, cloisters and portmanteaus.”

— Nick Flynn, excerpt from the foreword

"Like Lucie Brock-Broido and Robyn Schiff before her, Alison Stagner is a poet of gorgeous, elegiac imagination. In her poems, human experience is akin to a cabinet of curiosities where the domestic is fabulous and love is close to savagery. I am trying to send you / everything but silence, one of her speakers declares. And true, The Thing That Brought the Shadow Here has a voice made fierce by self-knowledge. I finished this beautiful book feeling spooked, delighted, and heartbroken."

— Rick Barot, author of The Galleons



You know the book.

It was read to you before you spoke. Its language

shaped enough of a garden

to plant you inside, you an agenda in the ovary

of a flower that went shutting

and un-shutting like a god’s sore hand, like the hasp

to some note-less system

of need. Inside it took you, high walls it laid over you—

it took this story to get inside—

to keep on the inside—the cicadas clattering there

like mosaic, emptied of eggs

in slow spasms, emptied into branches that were aware

of how they themselves thickened

in the crush of sunlight. There are places where the pupil

goes hungry, zeroed—

as on a seabed where the black box of an airplane blips out,

madly, its signals for tired divers—

the self is thrown out of the gaze, says possess me, says

zerozerozerozero, places

you reached after speech came, pails in your garden

struck with rust, walls buried

under pallets of moss, the between-the-stones rubbed thin—

through the gaps, you could see your

own brightening street-bend, and then you knew you had to try

to be a human, begin at the beginning

of being that human, and you learned the difficulty of feeling,

not as though you are dying,

but as though someone has already closed your eyes. Imagine

if you could scale the wall

with a ladder, go back to the story whenever you’d like—

say this spring—what might you

bury in dove-grey dirt when you return? Soft bulbs of

instinct riming over, what shot up

under breath before speech could say And They Lived—

(the book was read to you before

you spoke, before you knew to ask it but what is this life

I must change?). A scythe of sun

tilts into the bedroom—its hook joins the stones

on your shelves, above where

you lie looking inside the book, and where it lies looking

at you, both of you emphatic against

each other’s vanishing, you and the book you were read,

but you know it is you

you must undo, and sacrifice yourself for yourself,

the way your mother had to cut away,

as it grew, all your hair your father, living, ever touched.


Alison Stagner is the author of The Thing that Brought the Shadow Here (BOAAT Press, 2019), which was selected by Nick Flynn as the winner of the 2018 BOAAT Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Journal, Mid-American Review, New England Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of the James Wright Poetry Award (2016). A graduate of the University of Washington’s M.F.A. in Poetry program, she lives in Seattle, where she works as the Events Associate & Content Editor for Seattle Arts & Lectures.