“Kwiatek’s poems emit the uncanny luminosities of the artists’ worlds they refer to: those of Caspar David Friedrich, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Odilon Redon. Each is a ‘token of strangeness’ built with delicacy and restraint, embodying, vivifying what the poet calls the mind’s ‘lonesome flourish.’ Like entries in a recondite log, or the etchings, or tracks, of a complex consciousness, this work cannot help but identify its own material and spiritual corollaries: a bridle worn to threadbare, a voyage that ‘grows more & more captivating. More terse.’ It is, as one poem puts it, as if seeing / were a form of radiant / isolation. And yet the presence established over the course of the book is profoundly connective, rich with acute physical apprehension and charge. It moves under pressure toward its singular end, its very ‘necessity.’”—Emily Wilson, judge, 2014 Iowa Poetry Prize
“In one of her poems, Kwiatek describes consciousness as ‘a thing from another era.’ That other era is a thing that she tries to invent in Study for Necessity. Like the poems of Paul Celan, which these poems often evoke, Kwiatek’s work seems meant to be read on the page, at one’s own pace, and in a kind of meditation. They remind me of carefully composed paintings that show figures in tableaux that are strange and almost otherworldly; but then again, of thoughts that are in the process of materializing into language as through a bright fog. I like that back and forth. Sometimes clear and spare, sometimes tentative and just on the verge of becoming apprehensible, the poems in this book are always linguistically interesting. I found this book’s language, imagery, and atmosphere very captivating.” —Geoffrey Nutter
“Nietzsche pointed to necessity’s (necessarily) constructed nature: ‘Necessity is not a fact, it’s an interpretation.’ In Study for Necessity, JoEllen Kwiatek interprets this abstraction in concrete registers, sourcing it in atmospheres both voluptuous and ascetic. Longevity / is delicate, she writes in ‘Miles to Go.’ Uncanny perceptions—How / small the bonnet / face—disclose persistence at its most persistent. The poems distill so as to dilate. Made of this, and other centuries, consciousness is here a dark and pleated medium, calling things in their strangenesses inescapably near.”—Sarah Gridley 




I took a nap


in the sea,


in the bright water, coddled


by smithereens of brightness.




Dark as a vole, accordian-


pleated—that’s how I


thought of consciousness,


as a thing from another era.  

2014 Iowa Poetry Prize

Retail price

Retail price

Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
72 pages, 6 x 8