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Tourist in Hell

Eleanor Wilner’s poems attempt to absorb the shock of the wars and atrocities of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In their litany of loss, in their outrage and sorrow, they retain the joy in life, mercy for the mortal condition, and praise for the plenitude of nature and the gifts of human artistry.

As with her six earlier collections, these poems are drawn from the transpersonal realm of history and cultural memory, but they display an increasing horror at the bloody repetitions of history, its service of death, and the destructive savagery of power separated from intelligence and restraint. The poems describe “a sordid drama” in which the players wear “eyeless masks,” and the only thing time changes is the name of the enemy. Underneath it all, driving “the art that” in both senses “keeps nothing at bay,” swim the enormous formal energies of life, the transitive figure that moves on in the depths, something glimpsed in the first light, something stronger than hope. 

“It is a relief to come across work in which a moral intelligence is matched by aesthetic refinement, in which the craft of the poems is equal to their concerns.”--Christian Wiman, Poetry

120 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2010

Phoenix Poets



 “This is a big, moving, and intellectually satisfying collection by one of our most humane, wise, and intelligent poets.”

David Rigsbee | The Cortland Review

“Why must the only passionate engagement in contemporary poetry be sexual, and usually elegiac? Eleanor Wilner is passionate about the intermingling of other two taboos, religion and politics. Her seventh book, Tourist in Hell, is redhot and brilliant in how it summons the talismans of Western civilization—Shakespeare and Greek legend—to illuminate our current woeful situation.”

Poetry International

“Expansive and unbridled, Wilner’s poems not only induce the reader to look at horrors and injustices of the past, they also force us to see.”

Alizah Salario | Booklist

“In her seventh book . . . Wilner focuses on history, current events, literature, mythology, and Christianity. She carefully fuses autobiographical details to a larger context, and one hears echoes of the Old Testament, Roman Catholic prayers, William Shakespeare, Arthur Rimbaud, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, among others.”

Diane Scharper | Library Journal

“In Tourist in Hell, Wilner visits zones of torment and brutality—not because she relishes them, but because they open inexorably under her feet as she goes about the business of being human. An extraordinary volume, one that marks a new, compressed ferocity in Wilner’s project of poetic witness. It feels to me like a necessary book.”

Mary Kinzie

“Wilner is a poet of incomparable erudition and gifts of insight. There is no other contemporary poet who has addressed, as she has throughout her distinguished career, the world legacy of history and myth with such a keen sense of wonder, curiosity, and, in the end, literal re-vision. Tourist in Hell furthers Wilner’s reputation as a great poet of the invisible, the forgotten, and the potential.”

Susan Stewart

Table of Contents



History as Crescent Moon

Opening the Eyes

Wreck and rise above

The Gyre


In a Time of War

In That Dawn

After the Tsunami

What It Hinges On

Thinking about Unamuno’s San Manuel Bueno, Mártir

Site Visit

Back Then, We Called It “The War”

The Show Must Go On




Winter Lambs

Rendition, with Flag

Postcard with Statue of Liberty, No Message

Cold Dawn of the Day When Bush Was Elected for a Second Term

The Raven’s Text

The meteor

High Noon

Saturday Night


Voices from the Labyrinth




     The Minotaur

Meditation on DNA with Gene Splices from Shakespeare’s Sonnets

An Ode to Asymmetry

To Think What We Might Have . . .

Four Flats, Getting Dark Soon, Nothing to Do but Walk

Like I really like that

Encounter in the Local Pub



What loves, takes away

Restored to Blue

Vermeer’s Girl, a Restoration

Trees, even at this distance

the palest flowers / ash, snow . . .

Larger to Those Who Stay

Welcome to the dollar bin

Meditation on Lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

Harmony Bowl

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

The Morning After

Of a Word

Headlong for That Fair Target

Mine eyes have seen the glory of . . .



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