Earth Room

Earth Room
By Rachel Mannheimer
Publication date: April 5, 2022
ISBN# 978-1-955125-10-9
5 x 7" 82pp Paperback

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Selected by Nobel Laureate Louise Glück as Winner of the inaugural Changes Book Prize, Rachel Mannheimer’s debut, Earth Room, is a dazzling book-length narrative poem that explores with tenderness how art and love intersect to make one’s life. Transporting the reader across decades and from the Moon to Mars by way of Alaska, Berlin, and the Hudson Valley, Earth Room considers a lineage of sculpture, performance, and land art—from Robert Smithson to Pina Bausch—with observations shaped by gender and environment, history and portents of apocalypse. With an urgent, direct, and unmistakably powerful voice, Mannheimer tests the line between nature and culture, ordinary life and performance.

A work of sly wit and bracing sincerity, Earth Room is an original, unsparing book that Louise Glück calls “a lesson in how to make something of where we find ourselves.”

RACHEL MANNHEIMER was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where she works as a literary scout and as a senior editor for The Yale Review. This is her first book.


Praise for Earth Room

“Multiple readings of Rachel Mannheimer’s thoroughly fresh debut reward and fascinate like multiple visits to Walter De Maria’s eponymous “Earth Room” installation. This book is a charismatic travelogue for our interior and exterior landscapes; it’s a conceptual art catalog with a poet’s notes written in the margins; it’s a one-act play of engrossing verbal theater. The stupendous Earth Room makes language a place. It’s roomy, it’s personal, it’s every day.”
Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

“Rachel Mannheimer’s Earth Room is something uncanny. Behold the odd charge in the atmosphere: one minute, your attention is carried forth by the poems’ calibrated details and riveting textures of thought; the next, you’re inexplicably bereft, left with a dense, lush grief lodged inside you. It’s a feat the poem pulls off again and again: making traces of meaning felt while leaving much unseen. Earth Room registers the body traversing and impressing upon the edges of psychic, physical, and imagined landscapes–and at each way station and geographic marking, Mannheimer’s warm, animating intelligence renews its insistent claim on life’s blurriness and opacity. Earth Room is a singular and lambent collection, made perfectly strange.”
Jenny Xie, author of Eye Level

“To describe Rachel Mannheimer’s elegiac Earth Room, I need to borrow the words an astronaut used to convey his first impression of the moon: ‘magnificent desolation.’ This is an intimate, understated, lunar-lit work of earthen dispossession in which Mannheimer—in community, in grief, in love, and in solitude—acknowledges the very fine eroding line between art and life, and dares not only to cross it, but to do so with abandon. There is nowhere in this vertiginous work, as it takes us to memorials, galleries, performances, parks, guestrooms, seascapes, and cemeteries, in which the scale of human atrocity is not palpably encountered in ‘direct, tactile intimacy.’ Earth Room is a wholly original confessional-ekphrastic undertaking that brings artifice and reality so close they speak with a single crystalline voice—Mannheimer’s. This is an extraordinary book.”
Robyn Schiff, author of A Woman of Property

“How many voices can sustain an entire book length poem? I think of Claudia Rankine and Maggie Nelson. And here, Mannheimer, as she thinks aloud on the page with her supple, discerning intelligence. This is that rare work that is both profoundly alert to its historical moment and also, in the questions it entertains and the magnitude of its intent, timeless.”
Louise Glück, author of Faithful and Virtuous Night

Earth Room, a narrative poem of force and beguiling, transfixing energy, moves between New York, Alaska, Berlin, the moon, and Mars, as Mannheimer excavates history, ever-present, ever-unfolding, and how art rises out of it, in response to it, despite it. Mannheimer writes with a propulsive matter-of-factness, a savvy, strong, and layered way of making sense of creation and time and place.”
Nina MacLaughlinThe Boston Globe

Earth Room asks large questions in an understated voice — how to grieve and how to love, how to be a family and how to understand place. For answers, she turns to art, questioning the lines we draw between performance and life. Does the speaker give us definite answers? Certainly not — we must come to them ourselves, but she’s here alongside, encouraging, reminding us in the final poem that we are ‘very very very very / very very close.’”
C. Francis FisherLos Angeles Review of Books

“Looping and intimate, Earth Room depicts the act of living as a series of overlapping yet distinct performances and explores the dissonance between a person’s interior and exterior. Reading Earth Room is like riding shotgun on a road trip with a friend behind the wheel. No matter the stop or the destination, readers will find themselves on a singular, revelatory journey.”
Celeste ChenHarvard Review

“The themes in Mannheimer’s book are various but consistent, cropping up and interweaving: the loudness of silence, the melancholy and alienation of whiteness, “heterosexual antics,” a new lover, a former lover, the early death of the poet’s mother, trips to museums, travel, portraits of artists, meditations on Pina Bausch and Tanztheater, Jewishness, anxiety about our technologically-riven future. But the style is always limpid and marvelously controlled, page after page. […] ‘How can we know the dancer from the dance?’ wrote W.B. Yeats. An old idea, but this book is, among other things, a meticulous account of the performative pressure that drenches the lives of so many creative-minded young people in our times.”
Jesse NathanMcSweeney’s