Selected by Andrew Zawacki for the 2021 Georgia Poetry Prize
Soft Apocalypse pirouettes in the “anemic glow” of late capitalism, its prose poems and lyrics performing in the civic pocket, in the offbeat, and by arrhythmias that offer improvisational measures for going on. Chrome
angels, strange beloveds, and cool-eyed speakers cut speculative lines through precarious spaces of the present—deserts and nightscapes, neon-lit strips, corner stores, foreclosures, pharmacy queues, and “crumpled back alleys”—making imaginative economies, queer kinships, and alternative ways of being
in the world. Nothing here is done with ease, but irreducible gifts do slip surreptitiously from palm to palm: after all, “we all need a little help sometimes / baby.”
Soft Apocalypse insistently edges these unofficial exchanges and intimate apprehensions against the official orders, projections, violations, and isolations of our time. Instead of calculating toward a dystopic ending, this book bets on its softer wrecks, a futurity in an intimately rewired collective.
Dancing inside ‘the discoed light’ of our late, lurid century, Leah Nieboer adroitly imbricates the private and political, minor events with macro catastrophe. At once ascetic and raptured by excess, Soft Apocalypse auditions social, civic, and erotic relationships that aspire to redress the alienations inflicted by capitalism. Set somewhere between Oklahoma and Ophiuchus, this "triple-X rock opera" is scored to an ultraviolet dream stream and an "EKG going off." Its frayed-wire lyrics, neo-noir prose, and exquisite sequencing are cut with an X-Acto knife, fused with acetylene. Conversing with Lispector, Weil, and other intimate strangers, Nieboer accompanies us toward a future where, if we’re unlikely lucky, "a wreck becomes an opening."
—Andrew Zawacki, author of Unsun: f/11 and Videotape
In Soft Apocalypse we find "cold little gasps of misinformation;" we find "mismatched confessionals." In Leah Nieboer’s spirited poetry, we discover a kaleidoscopic interpretation of the real, an unending disruption to thought constantly turning where anything is possible so that nothing is impossible. It’s
a bumpy ride and necessarily so.
—Peter Gizzi, author of Now It's Dark: New Poems
As a poet, process and effort are endlessly engaging for the impossibility we encounter—the task, that is, of writing what it is to be. I don’t know how she did it, really, but Leah Nieboer’s Soft Apocalypse makes distance intimate. Hers is a world simultaneously made and unmade, rendered in dimensions unimaginable. I find I do not want to leave. All around "language allowing little detours." Sentence as sentience. Paragraphs approaching but refusing summation, as sound and syntax both complicate and continue to thread the song buried deep underground. An experiment, yes! Nothing cold about it, no! This is "the heart doing its best." I will keep this book close to me. You should read these poems to see what I mean.
—Sally Keith, author of River House
Her extended lyrics pull and fragment, fracture and bend, and manage to simultaneously hold an incredible precision across a landscape, and it is through her lyric fractal and disruption that she offers such unique clarity.
—Rob McLennan, author of the book of smaller, @ rob mclennan's blog