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In Elise Paschen’s prize-winning poetry collection, Infidelities, Richard Wilbur wrote that the poems “. . . draw upon a dream life which can deeply tincture the waking world.” In her third poetry book, The Nightlife, Paschen once again taps into dream states, creating a narrative which balances between the lived and the imagined life. Probing the tension between “The Elevated” and the “Falls,” she explores troubled love and relationships, the danger of accident and emotional volatility. At the heart of the book is a dream triptych which retells the same encounter from different perspectives, the drama between the narrative described and the sexual tension created there.
The Nightlife demonstrates Paschen’s versatility and formal mastery as she experiments with forms such as the pantoum, the villanelle and the tritina, as well as concrete poems and poems in free verse. Throughout this poetry collection, she interweaves lyric and narrative threads, creating a contrapuntal story-line. The book begins with a dive into deep water and ends with an opening into sky.