Published by WordFarm, 2010
Cover Design by Andrew Craft

Finalist, ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book of the Year

Death-Defying Acts

Erin Keane’s 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.

Read a review by Lindsey Alexander at Typecast Publishing.

 “Gumption pervades Erin Keane’s fab new collection, Death-Defying Acts,the whirligig world of circus folks lit up by the poet’s verve. But fabrefaction 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 Long Division

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.

“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, author of Twenty-First Century Blues

Death-Defying Acts was a 2010 finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year award in poetry.

“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 necks or seen our bodies covered with stories. These pages tell us what we felt and how we still feel in the dark before sleep.” — Barbra Hamby, author of On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems