Complex Sleep, Tony Tost’s ambitious second book of poems, leaps upward with an astounding multiplicity of voices, utterances, and bursts. Each leap marks a sure and precise entry into a world of images, ideas, and sensations that is brand new—the true accomplishment of any poetic work.

The octet of poems that compose Complex Sleep comprises a complex organism, audacious in scope, swiping at meaning via language as fragmented music. Tost takes on the problem of physical shape, reorchestrates phrases according to the alphabet, and writes himself into the hypnagogic state between waking and dreaming. Informed by their own procedural constraints, these poems invent forms that tap the unconscious poetic, the very complexity embodied in sleep. All the while, Tost reforms utterance beyond the mere epistemology of much contemporary poetry.

Devising an innovative formalism rather than concerning itself with discovering the what, Complex Sleep is about discovering how to say what needs to be said. Skip the opera, this book performs.


Remember a funny night
my family made a circle by and by
like standing on the shore a heart a visceral
thing. This moment my heart’s clear.
We’ll plant (my heart) a tree here.
My heart my heart my heart.
Is glad.

“These hypnotic modulations of form and feeling are, in the end, a kind of phenomenological trance music, an Orphic drowse, a dream where we are shown ‘our shape as waves.’ Reading this extraordinary book, we crest and topple and dissolve. Earthly shocks and space rays pass through us, much like the hidden forces that shuffle, here, the sentences, rework the words, proving, poem to poem, line to line, the presence of love in the world.”—Joseph Donahue
“Like none other, Tony Tost conceals himself above the page (‘a bird over the battlefield’ of poetry) and watches as the poem unfolds on its own terms, like a tree contained in its seed. Tost also planted the seed, of course, and what’s inside is ‘a balance in the realism’ that contains the bird’s song, about to turn into the poet’s magisterial recitation. And in Tost’s revolutionary title poem, ‘Complex Sleep,’ the revolving of day and night becomes the inevitable ‘dear repetition’ of all we know: the alphabet sings, literally a to z.”—David Rosenberg, coauthor, The Book of J (with Harold Bloom) and See What You Think: Critical Essays for the Next Avant-Garde

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122 pages, 5 ¾ x 9 ¼ inches