A Symmetry: Poems (Hardcover)
Winner of the 2022 Publish Triangle Trans and Gender-Variant Literature Award
Finalist for the 2021 Northern California Book Award in Poetry
A thrilling, discursive second collection from “a poet for this hour—bewildered, hopeful, and cracklingly alive” (Mark Doty).
The poems in Ari Banias’s thrilling and discursive second collection, A Symmetry, unsettle the myth of a benevolently ordered reality. Through uncanny repetitions and elliptical inquiry, Banias contends with the inscriptions of nationhood, language, and ancestral memory in the architectures of daily experience.
Refusing the nostalgias of classicism and the trap of authenticity, these poems turn instead to a Greece of garbage strikes and throwaway tourist pleasures, where bad gender means bad grammar, and a California coast where mansions offer themselves to be crushed under your thumb. A piece of citrus hurled into one poem’s apartment window rolls downhill and escapes the narrative altogether in another. Farmers destroy their own olive trees, strangers mesmerize us as they fold sheets into perfect corners, “artists who design border wall prototypes are artists / who say they “leave politics out of it.’” Climate collapse and debt accelerate, and desire transforms itself in the ruins.
From within psychic interiors and iconic sites—the museum, the strip mall, the discotheque, the sea—A Symmetry attends to the intimate, social proportions of our material world and discerns the simmering potential of a present that “can be some other way. And is.”
About the Author
Ari Banias is the author of Anybody, a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Center USA Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Poetry, and the Nation, among other publications. He lives in Oakland, California.
Expansive... Banias's chief strength as a poet lies in observation... In this memorable work, Banias offers readers a guide to seeing the world, and its incongruences, more clearly.
— Publishers Weekly
If every book of poetry, from now until the end—or the terminal twisting—of time were to offer itself as a field guide to the apocalypse by attrition in which we are living, in which we are forcing each other to live, then I would nominate Ari Banias’s A Symmetry to be among the books that we consult first. In its clear and capacious inventory of the inter- and codependence of what feels like the fullness and failing of all things, Banias’s poetry is transcribing a kind of vigilance that is mournful yet magnetizing, altruistic yet self-adhesive, and always enflowered by the daily uprising of new manifestations of love.
— Brandon Shimoda, author of The Grave on the Wall
Ari Banias’ poetry sits in an abandoned chair under the overpass, atop an ‘oil slick on the Aegean’ looking ‘at, not through’ reality’s immeasurables, holding it all in mind so we can also hold it. . . . The paper antiquity of NYC coffee cups and ‘A doric column / squatting in a strip mall’ and ‘the discotheque / painted tourist pink with a classical name’ evoke the churn of some perpetual history whose action-reaction is embodied in the motion of lyrical meter and the news reports this book takes apart. The poet calls it: ‘A yellow butterfly that has no interest in me. / I have no interest in kings.’ Such cosmic foreshortening disembarrasses the poem from imperial valence until all that’s left of the book is ‘just the tree.’ When Ari Banias says ‘don’t be sorry for the future sand / this stone wall will become’ one can almost let it go. Almost.
— Ana Božicevic, author of JOMO
In A Symmetry, Ari Banias attunes to unacquainted frequencies with great precision and extraordinary craft.… Every line holds. Reading this book is like feeling gravity. One walks unaware of the pull until the incline’s encounter
— Gregg Bordowitz, author of Volition and Tenement