ForeWord Book of the Year Awards finalist

“This meditation,” writes Christopher Bolin in Ascension Theory,“is about appearing without motes between us: / it is practice for presenting oneself to God.” Bolin’s stark and masterful debut collection records a deeply moving attempt to restore poetry to the possibilities of redemptive action. The physical and emotional landscapes of these poems, rendered with clear-eyed precision, are beyond the reaches of protection and consolation: tundra, frozen sea, barren woodlands, skies littered with satellite trash, fields marked by abandoned, makeshift shrines, sick rooms, vacant reaches that provide “nodes / in every direction // for sensing // the second coming.”

Bolin’s eye and mind are acutely tuned to the edges of broken objects and vistas, to the mysterious remnants out of which meaningful speech might be reconstituted. These poems unfold in a world of beautiful, crystalline absence, one that is nearly depopulated, as though encountered in the aftermath of an unnamed violence to the land and to the soul.

In poems of prodigious elegance and anxious control, Bolin evokes influences as various as Robert Frost, James Wright, Robert Hass, George Oppen, and Robert Creeley, while fashioning his own original and urgent idiom, one that both theorizes and tests the prospects of imaginative ascension, and finds “new locutions for referencing / sky.”

“Christopher Bolin has undertaken—beautifully and with immeasurable tact—the task of loving this world rightly and really. The task is endless, and he rejoices in it. The task is intricate, and his joy magnifies it in sublime detail. Ascension Theory is a lustrous book.”—Donald Revell, author, Tantivy
“The ravaged landscapes in Ascension Theory are suffused with speechlessness, isolation, and anonymity. Avalanches, vast tundras, birds, goods, and flags—things are nearly dead and icing over, becoming symbols before they ever existed in themselves. Alert to injury and the need for connection, Bolin presents a secular way of life haunted by lost powers of religion, myth, labor, and heroic action. The tremendous authority of these poems comes from their capacity to witness dissolution and repair, to capture illumination in those last seconds before it vanishes again.”—Joanna Klink, author, Raptus
"In Ascension Theory, Christopher Bolin has written a postmodern pastoral that is absolutely mesmerizing. The poems are set deep in a wintry rural world that appears barely encroached by humans. Here, Bolin meditates on the stark absence of spiritual sustenance and how in the face of such absence, we construct our own ersatz apparitions as a means of survival. Each poem is economical, scored with a silence that sings as finely as Bolin's richly imagined lines. Ascension Theory is an ambitious and wondrous debut."—Cathy Park Hong, author, Engine Empire




As when fruit trees blot the constellation’s head

and loose it—thoughtless and blind—to assemble



in the West;

as when the aviary nets itself, again;

as when they plant a single terrace at a time


to keep from losing light;

as when, under crows,

the shadows totter back and forth


through trash; as when the trash-fires crown

in December’s trash;

as when astral charts


include rescue flares—and we are, so briefly,

who we are.

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Publication Details

Publication Date
86 pages
Trim size
6 x 8 inches