GOD AS THIEF
(The Amagansett Press, 1994)
"A powerful collection of serious poetry which compares favorably to that of Nelly Sachs."
— SIMON PERCHIK
"To paraphrase a passage from one of these densely textured, passionate poems, Carine Topal carries her theatre in her eyes, and her theatre is vast: family origins, her own childhood, feisty relationships with lovers, the births of children, a European sensibility in pogrom and beyond it, high culture, and a keen sense of love as it plays out towards death. Topal writes with great fluency and much verbal and lyrical beauty . . ."
— ROBERT PETERS
BED OF WANT
(Black Zinnias, 2008)
Recipient of the 2007 Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award
"The world Carine Topal creates in Bed of Want—or recreates?—is the world in which we all would live, if we could, if we could bear it—a world in which every sense is heightened, every beauty more beautiful, and elusive and shimmering, and even sadness is a kind of rapture. Here, the radio is swooning, there's 'a promise of milk at the door.' Lush and sensual and full of the strangeness and danger of love, these poems are also sassy and savvy and simply unlike any other poems I know."
— CECILIA WOLOCH Author of LATE
In Bed of Want, the language of love and longing moves the poems and prose poems through the real and the imagined world. A strong sense of woman working her way through the world, rediscovering youth, hers and the magical world of others. Topal takes on the persona of mid-20th century travelers in her postcards and 19th-century narrators who journey inside various works of art, bringing the reader along. Topal enters each world and creates magical, surreal, and fabulist work that serves as time machine.
IN THE HEAVEN OF NEVER BEFORE
(Moon Tide Press, 2008)
"In one of my favorite poems in In the Heaven of Never Before, Carine Topal writes, 'I am teaching my son how to name things carefully/ so that nothing goes unnoticed' and this is exactly what Carine does in poem after poem. On a visit to her dying mother, she notices 'the only sound was the baby's snowsuit/crinkling as he waved his arms in the air.' On the morning when Lucille Ball dies, she remembers her mother, also a redhead, as she measured a dress she was sewing for her, 'My mother—a rouge shadow cast along her forehead as she sat beneath me—her head bowed . . . as she chalked and pinned, her hair hectic and fiery.' And in a poem where a stranger tries to resuscitate her father (is this right? is it her father?), ripping open his shirt, she notices the buttons fallen to the floor: 'I bent down to find three maverick pearls/ in the carpet, stars of a lost constellation, seeds of the next.' At the heart of this book are poems about family, about birth and dying, and the complicated love that endures. They remind us to pay attention in our lives, to try to notice everything."
— ELLEN BASS
"An extraordinary collection of poems . . . Intimate and compelling at every turn . . . Carine Topal's poems are woven with iridescent details as they lead us along her powerful emotional reflections upon what it means to be an adult woman in the world ? a daughter and a sister and a mother."
— DAVID ST. JOHN
Winner of the Palettes and Quills Chapbook Contest, judged by Kelly Cherry
"Many, many histories have been written about the Nazis and their victims, but because horror tends to overwhelm attempts at lyricism, the successful Holocaust poem is rare and distinguished. This collection has managed to do the nearly impossible: the poems here are deeply moving, make effective use of metaphor and narrative, retain their integrity by steering clear of sentiment, lay bare the truth, and enlighten. With splendid economy, the poem has placed the reader on death’s porch. “Faith is impossible,” says a girl or young woman in Auschwitz. The marvelous thing, the unexpected thing, is that the poet puts us in touch with those irreplaceable human beings. There is no false hope. What there is, is life. We see it slaughtered, burned, torn, poisoned, but still it is life because the poet has made it so. This brave book is crucial."
-KELLY CHERRY, author of We Can Still Be Friends
“Through at-the-ready empathy and unflinching art, Carine Topal makes familiar wartime episodes immediate and crisp, shockingly close to us again. Her invaluable and cogent chapbook is a reminder that there are as many ways to grasping and conveying the crucible of the Holocaust as there are individual human stories. Where others have often foundered in conveying the complexity and enormity of the Shoah, Topal succeeds—with unerring tact, startling juxtapositions, and unexpected music. Moving and utterly commanding, this is deft and impressive poetry of great moral power: a triumph of boundless imagination and compassion.”
-CYRUS CASSELLS, author of The Crossed-Out Swastika
Political art exists, not simply to answer injustice, but to mark barbarism with a countering ferocious creative will, to bring beauty back into the moral equation. That is precisely what Carine Topal does in Tattooed. Deploying a lyricism too insistent to be haunted, she explores the 20th Century's most notorious campaign of human treachery not as fixed history, but as a fluid and present condition that must continually be met, marked, assayed, and survived--and the cost of that survival measured against our own imperfect understanding. As she cautions in "Auschwitz: (The Orchestra)," "Whose twisted theater, whose music, this sudden ictus / when the orchestra plays for time, while we tally such / grotesqueries--the walking dead honoring nothing--into the song of what?"
- DOROTHY BARRESI, author of American Fanatics
Tattoo, by Carine Topal, is an achingly beautiful suite of poems on a most painful subject. It is history made present and personal, and given voices, faces and names. It is a document of witness, but more importantly, a work of art that illuminates the darkness and touches the reader. May it take its place on the shelf of classic literature of the Shoah.
-RICHARD GARCIA, author of The Other Odyssey
"First, Chrystal Night. Then trains. Then gas chambers. We know the story—or think we do—but familiarity can numb us, even to incomprehensible atrocities. In this collection, Carine Topal looks yet again into history—at the green ink of a number needled into a wrist, at the cork-soled child’s shoes added to the pile, at the seasons flowing through the camps, impossibly beautiful with lavender moths tangled in the vines outside and a willow next to the guard house. These poems don’t so much as remember the Holocaust as they attempt to un-remember it in order to make it new, and painfully—quite necessarily—make us see it again. Aching with language that refuses to turn away from horror or beauty, Tattoed is a stunning addition to the literature that grieves the lives taken, the remains that were brought to ash in those ovens—'And there’s the din of the slow giving in of wishbones, / millions deep.'"—--
—NICKOLE BROWN, author of Fanny Says
IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
"This is a brilliant book, by a fearless poet. The reader, male or female, must be tough enough to get through poems about small children brutally murdered by Mengele. Why read it? Because we cannot pretend not to know the past. Because the poems are beautiful and elegant, written with authority and care. Because it revives a community and a generation lost to us. Topal brings them bac to life: the composer and conductor Viktor Ullmann, the author’s brothers, others. You must read this book."
-KELLY CHERRY, author of Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Poem
"In Order of Disappearance is a breathtaking meditation on death, injustice, and the lyric memory’s power to name what survives when everything is stripped away. Topal’s poems awaken under her hand; they live in the present, asking with their fierce beauty if we are paying attention to the world, if we are ready to tell the truth."
--DOROTHY BARRESI, author of American Fanatics
"These poems move between the real, the perceived and the imaginary, exploring the world of history, delving into the unspeakable acts of the Holocaust and the personal. They ask questions for which perhaps there are no satisfactory answers. Topal’s most urgent question: “Is what we believe in enough?” That is for each reader of this powerful book to decide."
-CAROL V. DAVIS
"Carine Topal’s heart-wrenching collection of poems, is steeped in loss: personal, private loss, as well as loss on the Holocaust’s unimaginable scale. But Topal’s book is, at its heart, about finding a way out of despair and beyond bitterness into the beauty of remembering and memorializing. In lucid and luminous lines, Topal celebrates lives and ways of life that have been lost; and in the reader’s mind, at least. She brings them back."