Cover sculpture by Barbara Zucker
Each poem in Lessons of the Dead starts with that premise, and the results are funny, imaginative, and often strange: The road back to life is long, winding and lined with truck stops and waiting rooms, but it is also chockfull of hope and humor and beauty. By definition, the cast of characters includes almost everyone: from Adam and Eve and archangels to Houdini, Rameses II, and Death himself. Along the way, readers encounter the Titanic, the Permian-Triassic Extinction, the Heroic Age of Exploration, even the ubiquitous mall maps that say You are here. Part memento mori and part the opposite—a total embrace of life itself—Lessons of the Dead is likely different from any other poetry book you’ve ever read.
About the Author
Brett Ortler is a writer and an editor from the Twin Cities. His poems, essays, and articles appear in Fatherly, Salon, Yahoo! Parents, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, as well as in a variety of literary magazines and websites, including The Nervous Breakdown, Fanzine, Revolver, Ascent, and Rattle, among others. He is the author of nine books, most of them popular science titles, including several children’s activity books. He works as a non-fiction editor, and lives with his wife and two children in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.
“What are we to do with the burden of mortality we spend a lifetime carrying? Brett Ortler writes poems that swing between surreal fairy tales of the afterlife and tender ghost stories. With a charmingly macabre sensibility, these poems embrace mortality, and celebrate the ways it lends the mist of our lives a shape of meaning.”
—Kathryn Nuernberger, author of The End of Pink, winner of the 2015 James Laughlin award