Winner of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips

In her debut poetry collection, Carly Joy Miller surprises and enraptures on every page. The visceral poems of Ceremonial figure the body at its most sublime and at its most feral, with equal attention. With an unflinching eye, Miller crafts psalms of petition and praise from the raw material of life.

The poems of Ceremonial disturb in such a way as to make us entirely rethink who we are, and where. Ceremonial offers a post-apocalyptic landscape to be navigated by poems that together become a moral compass—the compass Protean, however, ever-shifting, maybe trustworthy, and maybe not. Here, to bless a thing can mean to put an axe to it; the impulse to save what’s broken competes with an impulse to look indifferently away from it; the topography is one of damage—accident or what only looks, or is meant to look, like accident. And yet there is tenderness, too, and vulnerability. The poems variously revel in, regret, and feel strange compassion for the beast of desire—of restlessness—inside us all: “Still I kiss / his jaw wild with yellow // jackets. I shepherd / too long in his furs.” Part of the power of these poems is the coolness of their sensibility, a refusal to back entirely down: “Don’t blink in disbelief,” we’re told at one point, “Kill from the chandelier with a pearl strand. Swing the lights.” I stand persuaded.
–Carl Phillips, judge of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize

Carly Joy Miller’s poems are wild, restless creatures. They scare me in the best way, balancing between pleasure and pain, and brokenness and wholeness, with lyricism, intelligence, and disarming composure: “Nothing delights more / than his horns. // How they rouge me.” Reading Miller’s thrilling debut, Ceremonial, I’m reminded of what happens when something breaks: there’s a brightness, more facets to reflect the light.
–Maggie Smith

Here is the poet who knows the sensual art of speaking in tongues. […] “To be young and lopsided in faith”—not a kind of prayer one would expect from the young poet in any age, nevermind 2018. And, yet, here it is, the surprise of discovery. The new voice which is instantly recognizable as that rarest of occurrences: the real thing.
–Ilya Kaminsky, from the foreword

The current of language swept me up and carried me with seductive grace. I found myself rereading phrases, sentences, and entire poems, eager to experience again how the words were strung together. This fluid linguistic elegance seems counterintuitive, as there is something unbridled at the heart of these poems. They are peopled with spitfire girls in tune with the wilderness of their surroundings. There’s an edgy magic to these characters and these verses, a fable-like quality that still captures the moxie and fire that simmers underneath female coming-of-age.
–Lauren Kane, the Paris Review blog

Edition Language:English
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About Carly Joy Miller

Carly Joy Miller is the author of Ceremonial (Orison Books, 2018), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2017 Orison Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Like a Beast (Anhinga Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Poetry Internat

    Ceremonial Reviews

  • Ruth

    I love the wildness of these poems. CEREMONIAL hums with bee-song and salt, whispered invocations and shoulder blades and the heat of stars. Carly Joy Miller is an original and unforgettable voice. Iā...

  • Brandon Amico

    Miller has a way of sliding images down the tumbling ramp of syntax, thoughts and pictures morphing fluidly from one to the next, that should be studied in poetry classrooms throughout the English-spe...

  • John Taylor

    My goodness I love this book. Ceremonial is a trove of writing which engages the sensual and the spiritual: where the body intersects with music, with pain, with God. These poems are frenetic and clea...

  • Terry

    It's too facile to connect Miller's poems with fairy tales...still, there are elements of unexplained-blood-spilled-in-misty,-silent-woods, etc. etc. Miller's poetry reminds me quite a bit of Patricia...

  • Keegan Lester

    Ceremonial is fairytale, yes, but the kind where children get eaten alive. It's sexy too. It moves within cadence and lyric, and it doesn't bother calling out your name as much as it motions you over ...

  • Ben Taylor

    This collection of poems is alive, haunted, and haunting. Miller commemorates the war over bodies between the sacred and profane, her speakers often caught somewhere in the midstā€”protesting, pulsing...