Soft Targets

Forthcoming, 2019



Deborah Landau’s Soft Targets registers the body’s vulnerability in a time of global crisis, deepening the themes of her acclaimed third book, The Uses of the Body. The fear of annihilation expands beyond the self in this ambitious lyric sequence to an imperiled planet on which all inhabitants are “soft targets.” In a world beset by political tumult, random violence, terror attacks, and climate change, what becomes of the quiet expressions of love between friends and family? As neo-Nazis march in the 21st Century, the poet recalls her grandmother’s flight from Nazi Germany in 1938. “Much trouble at hand, yet the lilies still,” Landau writes, confounded by the simultaneity of pleasure and pain, comfort and suffering – the clash of Eros and Thanatos. “Now bring me a souvenir from the desecrated city, something tender, something that might bloom.”

These are vital, necessary poems for our present moment.

So I told the sky it should stay blue
told my daughter she should stay breathing
told my love he should and we would
as the monster storms showed their teeth
and the fires flared and the wines
weren’t plum enough to numb us
and our leaders’ virulent egos seethed–
(people dying off as if it were nothing
to leave this planet as if it were a breeze)

“Landau’s killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath—leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire … with lines of grave and startling beauty.”

Los Angeles Times

“As Landau explores her physical self and her sexuality, she’s tart, witty, fluid, direct, and brutally honest, and her work can be appreciated by any reader.”

Literary Journal, Starred review for Uses of the Body

“[Deborah Landau writes] a thrilling meditation on the passages of a woman’s life.”

O, The Oprah Magazine