“In this remarkable new book, Elizabeth Arnold focuses on what certain bodies undergo against forces that efface them. Physical law has it that ‘what pokes out gets hit.’ Limbs, noses, and jaws are blown off. There are mastectomies. Prosthetic reconstruction is ‘flesh displaced.’ Some of those who experience it learn that there is now between them and the ones they love a wall of cancelled desire. ‘One can adjust to this, they say, but not // from it.’ ‘On the outside,’ some lose “the ability to feel // glad to be alive.’ Losses such as these italicize how unlikely it was to begin with that any soul should ever have made its way into a body out of the oblivion that precedes birth. Death too is that oblivion. Its ‘fingers’ open the face out of which ‘something // inner joins the surface’ as soon as the eyes ask for help.” —James McMichael

“The sequence allows poetry to think, refusing comfortable propositions—Elizabeth Arnold has perfected the form. What Effacement is thinking about is the body, and the materials Arnold is using to think with are many and mixed, from Philip Johnson’s glass house to the translucent fish of the hadal depths, from the portraits of wounded soldiers Henry Tonks drew at Aldershot to case studies of reconstructive surgery. In a small way, Arnold’s own history with cancer and mastectomy assumes its place among the images, history, and discourse that make up the book of the body. To be a soul is easy, she writes in one poem; the harder part is to burn back into the world.” —Keith Tuma