ForeWord Magazine 2010 Book of the Year Award finalist Order your copy of Death-Defying Acts from Wordfarm today!
A new clown has joined the ragtag Corsican Brothers Circus—chain-smoking, foul-mouthed Jack is unwilling to be seen without his makeup and unable to forget his unlucky past. A promising romance with the sideshow's femme fatale tattooed lady and an unlikely friendship with a sheltered young aerialist offer him a chance for redemption, if he knows one when he sees it.
Death-Defying Acts, a collection of persona poems, tells the story of one summer on the road with a small-time circus, weaving together the stories of performers living on the fringe of society. Their voices, including a jaded lion tamer and her favorite lion, a fortune teller with a cruel streak and a Magic 8 Ball, a patient tattoo artist, and the midway's omniscient photo booth, echo back and forth as the poems talk to one another, examining the tension between public and private, the need for authentic human connection and the desire for self-determined lives.
What they're saying about Death-Defying Acts:
Novel, poetry collection or concept album? Keane masters the ring and the written word ... [Read more
] —New Southerner
This collection of poems could easily form the makings of a Baz Luhrmann film–the sumptuous sets, the bold cover, the burlesque imagery, the urgency of the telling of the tale .... the language is precise, beautiful, and relationship-driven. [Read More
] —Typecast Publishing
Gumption pervades Erin Keane's fab new collection, Death-Defying Acts, the whirligig world of circus folk lit up by the poet's verve. But fabre-faction alone is never enough: Keane helps us see the aerialist's ambition as our own, how "So many ways to fly" characterizes the carnie and the midway we call our daily lives. And here, we thought we weren't freaks.
—Alan Michael Parker, author of Elephants & Butterflies
What does the tattooed lady fear? "Some day I'll run out of skin." What does the reader of Death-Defying Acts fear? "Soon, I'll run out of poems in this wonderful book to read." Even coulrophobes and circus haters
(that's almost everybody in the twenty first century, right?) are going to be drawn into these weird, precise, grimly funny monologues by clowns, freaks, the aerialist, the lady lion tamer, and her lion (yes, the lion gets some of the best lines in the book). Erin Keane's characters are living on the existential edge, as we all are, but they know it and we don't, usually, except at 4 a.m. on the way back from the bathroom. If you always wanted to run away to join the circus, avoid this book. If you always wanted to live near the scary edge, peering over into the abyss, read this book. You'll wish it were longer.
—Richard Cecil's most recent collection of poems is Twenty First Century Blues
Erin Keane's circus is filled with beautiful losers. The tattooed lady, clown, lion tamer, aerialist, Zorada the fortuneteller, and even the lion speak eloquently of life on the outside but inside the heart of a weird art. Who among us has not felt the beast's breath on our neck or seen our bodies covered with stories. These pages tell us what we felt and how we still feel in the dark before sleep.
—Barbara Hamby, author of All-Night Lingo Tango and Babel
Erin Keane’s type of fiction is written in lines and stanzas instead of sentences and paragraphs. Critics might call this "poetry." But if literary criticism is about being lonely, about being alienated, then this book is a combination of minimalism and a much-admired sex party. Erin Keane’s Death-Defying Acts is as good as or better than a small New England liberal arts school.
—Mickey Hess, author of Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory
More from Death-Defying Acts
Tattoos, Fangs, and Fright Wigs: Sherry Chandler interviews me about Death-Defying Acts
Hear me reading poems and talking about poetry on Accents - A Radio Show for Literature, Art and Culture and the fantastic new Red Lion Sq. podcast.
Read about Erin's musical selections for Death-Defying Acts in Largehearted Boy's Book Notes series and a poem from Death-Defying Acts, "Zorada Reads the Clown," on Verse Daily.