(cover art by Madara Mason)
Sum Ledger was twice named a finalist for the Autumn House Poetry Prize (with Autumn House Press) and was also a finalist for the 2018 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize (with the University of Utah Press). Additionally, it was named a semifinalist for the 2020 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, the 2020 Airlie Prize (with Airlie Press), the 2019 Wheeler Prize (with the University of Ohio Press), the 2019 Blue Lynx Prize (with Lynx House Press), and the 2018 Tenth Gate Prize (with The Word Works).
Sum Ledger is forthcoming from Measure Press in the summer of 2022.
Publisher’s Book Detail:
Sum Ledger chronicles how money toxifies every aspect of American life. Set against the backdrop of the Great Recession and Donald Trump’s ascendancy, Sum Ledger catalogs money’s power to obliterate our innocence, pollute our values, infiltrate our homes, and derail our democracy.
“Sum Ledger is a powerful and wide-ranging meditation—via a dazzling array of poetic forms and sources—on money, class, and poverty, that complicates the narrative of late-stage capitalism in America. Weaving together the personal with the historical, imaginative, and political, Adam Tavel’s masterfully wrought poems empathize deeply with people in distress, be it turn of the century child laborers and almshouse residents, or his own family members and hard-working community college students. I can’t think of a book more appropriate for our current moment of political upheaval and economic crisis, or a better poet to lead us through it, with his unflinching eye, muscular language, and huge heart.”
“Adam Tavel’s Sum Ledger is about money, its ludicrous power, and what it is like not to have access to it. It begins with a kid rolling pennies to buy diapers for his twin baby sisters and moves into a virtuosic ode to trailer parks, which gets at the exuberant sadness, the heroic lyricism, of places where real poetry is born. Nuance is brought to the collection as Tavel opens the frame and takes excursions into the recent and distant historical past, from child labor to 9/11 to Nero. He builds toward a tour de force of a final movement that delves into the source of all of it—including the torment of the current moment—via ekphrasis, history, and myth. Sum Ledger is a book about work, so much work. The work of trying to make it all work. Indeed, Tavel has worked these poems themselves to a fine sheen. There is meter, there are sonnets, up against the noir intensity of images. Sum Ledger is urgent, and it is masterful.”
“His poems are musical and formally deft, and Adam Tavel makes of his own American life, and of the life of America, a portrait of itself the nation ought to see, especially now. It cannot be said to be pretty, this portrait, but it is, in Tavel’s hands, beautiful and true.”
“Adam Tavel weaves a spiderweb of frost on the windows of a rectory station wagon. His poems are sacred and sometimes profane. They swagger with journey and the story of a life that could be spelled out in capital letters. There is restoration to a sense of being. Here is a master of images that cut across poems.”