(cover art by Madara Mason)
The Fawn Abyss was published by Salmon Poetry in February 2017. Previously, it was a finalist for the 2010 Intro Poetry Prize with Four Way Books, a finalist for the 2010 Open Readings with Sarabande Books, and a semi-finalist for the 2011 De Novo Prize with C&R Press.
Publisher’s Book Detail:
The Fawn Abyss explores the emotionally fraught terrain of family, belonging, and injustice against the pastoral backdrop of the Delmarva Peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay. Steeped in memory, Tavel’s poems conjure a cast of cultural ghosts—from Abraham Lincoln to Sam Cooke—in their documentary investigations of the past, including the poet’s own youth. These retrospections, buoyed by wry wit and cinematic detail, sustain the collection and anchor it in our own whiplash age. Throughout, Tavel’s poetic range, keen ear, and tenacious heart find full expression. Lyrical, mythic, unflinching, The Fawn Abyss grieves the seemingly inevitable destruction of innocence while affirming the promise of renewal, transporting readers from “the river’s glinting bone-cage” to a sonogram’s “bean-body and nubbin hands” reaching toward a brighter fate.
“Tavel reaches through generations of history and ancestry in search of a hidden solution to grief. Often, the human response to violence is to either reach outward to God or inward towards the self. Tavel juxtaposes his family’s religious traditions with his tendency to combat sorrow with attentiveness.”
“There’s a measured authority in every line; and when he talks about the present time there’s a cellular reality, touched with hope, saying what must not be lost.”
“The intrepid reader of The Fawn Abyss will travel into the intimacy of suffering, into the anguish of long-ago Eastern Shore men and women, slaves and free, guided deftly by this brave poet.”
-The Delmarva Review
“In the deft and moving poems of The Fawn Abyss, Adam Tavel explores, with recurrent wisdom and wit, the fall from inexperience into something more satisfyingly complex than mere sobriety, abjection, or distrust. These are poems whose elements of serious play relish the archival details, the incarnational hunger and mystique of the narrative, while honoring the imaginative and speculative power to make all things new. Not that suffering alone redeems us, and yet the deer corpse in the field is full of bees, resilient, resplendent, compelled. To read these poems is to kneel and listen.”
“Adam Tavel’s vision of life is so generous and large that I am taller having read this book, a full foot above my given height, which means I am able to see just a bit more of the everything he would have me see.”
“Adam Tavel’s The Fawn Abyss refuses easy resolutions even as it communicates directly and honestly—its honesty can be measured by the doggedness of its refusals. Tavel makes a poetry that at first seems to be a poetry of things seen well, which is gift enough, but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be a deeply empathetic poetry of things felt into, so that the fawn abyss of the title is, on the one hand, a big hole in a fawn, and, on the other hand, an abyss opened in the world. And to see that it is also an abyss and not just a hole is a great and honest refusal, and a gift both possessed and given.”
“Adam Tavel’s poems are sonorous, luxurious, and inclusive. While often grounded in a particular landscape, these poems move across cultures, centuries, and even light-years. Taken together, The Fawn Abyss forms a rich tapestry in which personal experience of the ecstatic is tempered by the realities of our shared history. Like the great Hellenic poet C. P. Cavafy, these poems look to wed the historic to the personal. This is a daring collection.”