Staying Alive


Ugly Duckling Presse
Spring 2016

Nominated for the 2017 Elgin Award

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“Rarely does one come across a collection this inventive, or a poet who so capably teaches her reader how to understand that inventiveness.”
–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Laura Sims’s poems in Staying Alive…are part creation myth, part apocalyptic remnant, part post-civilization idyll…I’m almost afraid of reading too much at a time, afraid that climbing out will be far harder than falling in.”
The Paris Review

“Sims writes poetry like she is writing for the after-world.”
Rain Taxi

“The poems read like road signs might if they were written by William Carlos Williams leading through a scene in a Tarantino film on the way to Hell.”
Fjords Review 

“In this refreshing take on apocalypse, rather than a fully-developed world, Sims’ spare, porous poems offer a scaffolding on which readers can build their own visions of an uncertain future.”

“A collection like this reminds me…that matter cannot be created nor destroyed.  Everything from our happiness to our fingers will somehow be restored.  In an unlikely story of survival no matter our form or situations, Staying Alive is a poetry collection to fulfill hope in both an uninhabitable future and a seemingly unbearable present.”
The Literary Review 

“With spare language and haunting precision, these poems explore how it might be to experience a catastrophic event, to survive it and to stay alive.”

Staying Alive…is not just about destruction. In these poems is an inherent renewal and the dawn of a new life…Life persists even if it is only the continuation of our molecules in the body of a new instrument: tide, sun, wolf, smoke. Humanity will continue to be part of creation…we just have to accept it won’t be human in form. That, that, is staying alive.”
The Los Angeles Review

“These lines are less about lessons in the tenacity of the human spirit (“And no one would help / The humans left // Not even the humans”) or the false hope of regeneration as they are about what can persist, what we leave behind.”

Staying Alive is a resonant, sharp entry into the psychology of loss on an unimaginable scale.”
Gazing Grain Press

“There are so many powerful ideas being explored through Staying Alive…that it makes you wonder whether the apocalypse isn’t such a bad idea, after all. Through worldly and otherworldly destruction, a sense of the forsaken or the forlorn, and a gritty, transcendental urge to both survive and understand, Sims brings us beautiful lines and a beautiful book.”
Queen Mob’s Teahouse

“Sims writes beautiful endings; or rather much of her writing is of ending, the gerund of it all, the absence of final end within the process of ending…this poetic series in three parts follows and does what Derrida wrote about différance: ‘The text prompts us to examine the essence of the present, the presence of the present.’”
Nomadic Press

“One likes to imagine that the apocalypse is far removed from reality; that if it ever occurs, it would appear in stark contrast to the relative comforts of everyday existence. Instead, Sims turns the tables, suggesting that destruction can camouflage itself in apparent peace…Staying Alive is clearly not a glorification of crisis. Nonetheless, poems survive beauteously within a thematic climate of wreckage and suffering.”
Broken Pencil

Staying Alive is more than an exploration of the idea of apocalypse. It is the result of a cataclysmic event. These are the torn pages…scattered on the floor of the school. A survivor who was just a child when our world ended, who has no memory of the time before, has come across them and transcribed them into this red notebook, trying to make sense of them.”
Heavy Feather Review

“These poems are like a library that has partially burned, with scraps of its source texts floating and colliding in the air or painstakingly gathered in an aftermath to form an impression of what happened here, what was important enough to write down…Given these fragments of texts and ideas that cluster around cataclysm, exile, and the end of at least one civilization, we—I, at least—try to…figure out what we did, we humans, we remnants, we unhappy few.”
Strange Horizons

“How does one become okay with oblivion, or what comes after us? Does it matter? A world of ice? A world of desert people? No people? Beetles, scorpions, and snakes in the sand? The personal reflex for connection, the terror of going on, amid more suffering to come: the gamble is almost idiotic, but also tender in its conviction, its risked neck. Staying Alive assembles scenarios, tried ideas, mild cries, stranded assertions, and sends them adrift—all coming apart and seemingly possible. While the stray land, on which the formulations exist, does not know what is being said, why, nor for the benefit of whom.”
Mirage Reviews

“I’m astonished by the fullness of the experience Staying Alive offers. The narrative, which brilliantly juxtaposes flashes of rich images with the colossal heft of negative space, sits in my mind like a life that I may have lived in some other dimension/time. I feel the memory of it, now absorbed in my own language of apocalypse, that viscerally.”
–Kenneth Calhoun, author of Black Moon

copyright © Laura Sims 2017 / website by Noah Saterstrom