Paula Cisewski

Paula Cisewski (Poetry) | Minneapolis, MN

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Paula Cisewski fourth poetry collection, ​quitter​, won Diode Editions’ 2016 Book Prize and her third, The Threatened Everything, was selected for publication in the 2014 Burnside Review Book Contest. Both are newly released in early 2017. Cisewski is also the author of Ghost Fargo (selected by Franz Wright for the Nightboat Poetry Prize), Upon Arrival (Black Ocean), and a chapbook of lyric prose, Misplaced Sinister (Red Bird Chapbooks). She has been awarded fellowships from the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She teaches, both academically and privately.


quitter (Diode Editions, 2017). Poetry.
The Threatened Everything (Burnside Review Books, 2017). Poetry.
Ghost Fargo (Nightboat Books, 2010). Nightboat Poetry Prize, Poetry.

Upon Arrival (Black Ocean, 2006). Poetry.


  • Misplaced Sinister (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2015). Poetry.
  • Two Museums (MaCaHu Press, 2009). Poetry.

Blurbs, Press & Reviews

“In quitter, Paula Cisewski quits everything except doubt, the kind of cavernously honest doubt that philosophers crave and that the American Project will need to forge as its lodestone if this planet is to continue. Only someone doing it (Poetry) right could ask, “how can I / possibly be / doing this right,” illuminating the difficult path with humility and care. For what but “an earnest / straining to hear / will return the here / to the here.” quitter slips into the labyrinth for its dark heart, for its beastliness, but it escapes with something far greater: light. “Whatever light there is, that’s what it’s time for.” This is a book about labor and refusal. We the people, more than ever, need poets like Paula to walk and work the labyrinth for us, to refuse easy answers and bring back seeds of resistance. I am so grateful for this timely, intimate, and incandescent book.”
—Chris Martin, author of The Falling Down Dance

“The poems in Paula Cisewski’s The Threatened Everything take on a teetering, siren-infused world in which ‘bullets rip through every modern poem,’ and the speaker, like the rest of us, is ‘always and forever / on a stairway to a stairway to,’ stuck between floors and phrases like an infinitely skipping record. This book is both urban and animal. It inhabits the political realm and a panicked interiority, the elegiac (‘This elegy / is for who one man / in a repeating // mirror of men might have been / before violence’) and a newlywed bliss that borders on the hysterical (‘happy / as a warehouse stuffed with // white umbrellas popped open!’). I am delighted by Cisewski’s formal virtuosity and her feverish humor, and I’m scared to death—as one should be—by the accuracy of her apocalypse. ‘We gravel-knee our motherland,’ she writes. ‘We are patriots, Sisters and Brothers, and our country’s flag is a gaping beak.’ This book’s arrival is imperative, urgent. It burns.”
—Diane Seuss

“If nothing else we have, each one of us, the solitary and unacknowledged duty of witnessing, throughout our lives, in a way no one else possibly could, the absence of our own many past selves. Paula Cisewski speaks from and of this solitary unpaid job with great poignancy and ravishing technical skill. Her book has the desolate mystery and beauty of winter in the American midwest, along with the strange, hard-won hilarity of that place, any human place really. In the end that humor may be all we have to stay alive.”
—Franz Wright

“The verbal search for unknown finality is in these poems, the odd little bird who cocks her head to the side while singing to herself is in these poems, and the sound of circulating blood, and all manner of edgy fragile other things that make the reader feel lucky–for listening is inherently lucky, and these poems bear that gift.”
—Mary Ruefle

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