Paula Cisewski

Autumn Pingel, Photographer

Paula Cisewski's fourth poetry collection, Quitter, won the Diode Editions Book Prize. She is also the author of The Threatened Everything (Burnside Review Books), Ghost Fargo (Nightboat Poetry Prize winner, selected by Franz Wright), Upon Arrival (Black Ocean), and several chapbooks, including the lyric prose Misplaced Sinister.


Cisewski's work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals and anthologies such as 78, Salt Hill, Bennington Review, Tammy, Prompt, Vinyl, Brevity, Eleven Eleven, A Handsome Journal, failbetter, Revolver, the BOMBlog, REVOLUTIONesque, Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics, and Ping Pong.


She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Oberholtzer Foundation, and the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


While raising her son, Cisewski earned her BA from St. Catherine's University and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. During those years, she worked in warehouses, was a mosaic artist mentor with Minneapolis teens, owned a coffee shop, and waited one million tables.


Cisewski founded and curated several Twin Cities' reading series over the last couple decades, including the open mic night at the Artists' Quarter Jazz Club, St. Paul Calls quarterly poetry & jazz series (with Fred Schmalz), the Imaginary Press Reading Series, several 100K Poets for Change events, the Banfill-Locke's 2013 Reading Series, and the 2014 Maeve's Sessions (with Matt Mauch).


She lives in Minneapolis, where she has taught academically and privately for over a dozen years. She collaborates with fellow artists and activists and serves on the editorial staff of Conduit.


Along with her artist husband Jack Walsh, Paula is a cofounder of Poetry Fort and JoyFace Poetry & Arts.

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Quitter

Quitter

“I’m afraid / that there’s a prison / at the heart of everything.” In quitter, Paula Cisewski quits everything except doubt, the kind of cavernously honest doubt that philosophers crave and that the American Project will need to forge as its lodestone if this planet is to continue. Only someone doing it (Poetry) right could ask, “how can I / possibly be / doing this right,” illuminating the difficult path with humility and care. For what but “an earnest / straining to hear / will return the here / to the here.” quitter slips into the labyrinth for its dark heart, for its beastliness, but it escapes with something far greater: light. “Whatever light there is, that’s what it’s time for.” This is a book about labor and refusal. We the people, more than ever, need poets like Paula to walk and work the labyrinth for us, to refuse easy answers and bring back seeds of resistance. I am so grateful for this timely, intimate, and incandescent book.

—Chris Martin


Paula Cisewski’s latest book is full of labyrinths and scavengers, blossoms and bus commutes, Shakespeare and Chopin and Bowie and Hüsker Dü. Reading it is like commiserating over the end of the world with your smartest friend, only to realize, after a night of dark humor and etudes, that you’re just at the halfway point. There is so much more, even as our bodies tether us to so much of the same. Cisewski makes every bit of it beautiful.”

—Kate Harding

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