Pages: 96 Size: 6.5x7
Night Manual is a survival guide for life—all the messy, wonderful, grieving, and self-doubting parts of life. David Hornibrook’s debut poetry collection is a book of hours that keeps time through anguish and explores the ineffable borderland of existence. These are poems that seek to get at what cannot be described through a process of negation—to delineate the shape of an absence by writing the things around it.
Night Manual is divided into four sections loosely inspired by the four seasons. Each section explores the theme of absence from a slightly different proximity; as a whole, the book progresses from grief to gratitude. A major task of Hornibrook’s is to communicate the gravity and perplexity of loss while at the same time charting out a kind of liturgy of joy and wonder at the cycle of life in an ever-changing world. With lines like "My eyes are pulled to the monitor / where a universe expands or contracts, I can’t tell which" (from "The Ultrasound") to "Facebook keeps showing Miley with her mouth open / & I keep finding little things wrong with everything" (from "Self Portrait w/ Wrecking Ball"), Hornibrook has created instructions for moving through a world suddenly disoriented by loss, a world with starlings, water birds and aliens, robots and deer, Miley Cyrus and God, black holes, and the quiet morning strangeness of a house when all the people you love are still asleep.
Fans of contemporary poetry who want to believe in something again—who need a small dose of absurdity along with their suffering—this collection is for you.
David Hornibrook’s Night Manual experiments with the white spaces and stanza forms like faults and cleavages in the geology of language, the ledges and layers of image, the seismic divides of the everyday and existential. Individual poems are like cairns raised out of the near to hand. As a collection, the work achieves the sumptuously monumental.
– Thomas Lynch, The Sin Eater: A Breviary
Among the many realizations David Hornibrook offers in the unsettling comfort of his Night Manual is that structure as much as language discloses how the power of the presence of absence reveals. Hornibrook’s exploration recognizes the irrelevance today of that gnawed-on philosophical trope, ‘Who am I?’ In poems that move on the rhythms of anguish he enables us to realize the question to ask now is ‘Where am I?’ Each poem reveals the answer: whomever and whatever I am with, thus transforming ‘How then should I live?’ into ‘How then should I live with what and who are left?’ In his poem ‘Dire Country,’ Hornibrook writes, ‘It’s hard to stay safe.’ I recommend joining this gently fierce poet when he writes, ‘Instead, I sing/the names/of everyone I love . . .’ This first collection reads as the latest work by a brave and seasoned poet.
– Jack Ridl, author of Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press, 2013) and Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press, 2019)
In Hornibrook’s lush poetry, shadows fall like silk, and words come to recover their bodies. Flora, fauna, earth and sky penetrate the skin to flourish in an ethereal symbiosis. Like O’Keeffe’s magnificent flowers, his lyrical imagery invites you to slow down, look closer, consider the veins of a leaf where ‘the wind grew a tongue / & spoke / through trees.’
– Diane DeCillis, author of Strings Attached (Wayne State University Press, 2014)
Time, space, God, nature, and wilderness is rendered in shimmering images as ‘worlds break apart’ or merge in these stunning poems. The eye is microscope, telescope, and mirror examining salvation, terror, the biblical, the quotidian. Hornibrook’s luminous work compels us to see ‘once more the first dawn.’
– Zilka Joseph, author of Sharp Blue Search of Flame (Wayne State University Press, 2016), What Dread, and Lands I Live In
2019 Moveen Prize in Poetry - Result: 2019 Winner