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Troy, Unincorporated

A meditation on the nature of betrayal, the constraints of identity, and the power of narrative, the lyric monologues in Troy, Unincorporated offer a retelling, or refraction, of Chaucer’s tragedy Troilus and Criseyde. The tale’s unrooted characters now find themselves adrift in the industrialized farmlands, strip malls, and half-tenanted “historic” downtowns of south-central Wisconsin, including the real, and literally unincorporated, town of Troy. Allusive and often humorous, they retain an affinity with Chaucer, especially in terms of their roles: Troilus, the good courtly lover, suffers from the weeps, or, in more modern terms, depression. Pandarus, the hard-working catalyst who brings the lovers together in Chaucer’s poem, is here a car mechanic.
            Chaucer’s narrator tells a story he didn’t author, claiming no power to change the course of events, and the narrator and characters in Troy, Unincorporated struggle against a similar predicament. Aware of themselves as literary constructs, they are paradoxically driven by the desire to be autonomous creatures—tale tellers rather than tales told. Thus, though Troy, Unincorporated follows Chaucer’s plot—Criseyde falls in love with Diomedes after leaving Troy to live with her father, who has broken his hip, and Troilus dies of a drug overdose—it moves beyond Troilus’s death to posit a possible fate for Criseyde on this “litel spot of erthe.”

96 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2012

Phoenix Poets



“With impeccable timing and a fine instinct for the telling detail, Francesca Abbate evokes the plenitudes and the deprivations of human habitation, the nurturing richness of landscape, and the soul-wound wrought by casual defacement. Abbate has a superb capacity for distillation and a mastery of poetic line, and her diction is remarkably flexible, accommodating both the demotic and the lyrical. Her poems are as consistent in quality as they are varied in pacing, surface, and tone. A fine first book.”

Linda Gregerson, University of Michigan

“This story really works in poetic form, the narrative propelled by diary-like observations and meditations. Eventually, the ‘{Chorus:}’ confirms that ‘heroes go down / singing. They go down / with mouths full of thorns.’ In Abbate’s mouth, those thorns have kept their roses.”

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright | Brooklyn Rail

“Abbate’s accomplishment continually rises like an unexpected yet inevitable encounter. . .This is a book that is deeply American and as steeped in classics as some of the best writing from our heartland over the centuries.”

Barbara Berman | The Rumpus

Table of Contents


[Chorus:] Everything is half here


[Psyche’s Song:] Praise me, I told the water lilies, for I am half-invincible
[Narrator:] Of eighth grade
[Criseyde:] How sadly my friends and I
[Pandarus:] Troilus I said we’re just dumb boys you know
[Troilus:] Sniffly weather, the sky all prologue
[Criseyde:] In those days arrows were very magic
[Psyche:] On the walls, the usual Americana
[Pandarus:] We made a sand woman on Harrington Beach


[Cassandra:] The halo—no mere incandescence
[Narrator:] The afternoon grew taller when a boy on Halsted
[Criseyde:] Like the friend following you
[Troilus:] I was a boy. I listened to frog song
[Criseyde:] Already I miss Troy
[Pandarus:] Slatternday Crumbday
[Criseyde:] I didn’t know who I was we say
[Troilus:] I watched him paint all he could draw


[Chorus:] We tried to remember
[Narrator:] Our usual consolation of daisies
[Criseyde:] Dear (you know I never rode horses well)
[Troilus:] What lean pickings
[Criseyde:] I knew my would-be lover
[Troilus:] Nightfall when I crossed
[Criseyde:] By night my father’s house shines
[Cassandra:] Now the accrual of was. At Booth Lake, the body


[Chorus:] Then came the sand trucks
[Narrator:] We take the Hoan bridge home
[Criseyde:] If in any harbor
[Criseyde:] It was like the old world sent me a letter
[Criseyde:] The canister of Ajax glinting on the counter
[Criseyde:] Daily it storms: dams give out, a lake in the next county
[Chorus:] The way fences open


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