Elizabeth Poliner

What You Know In Your Hands


What You Know In Your Hands

David Robert Books, 2015

Elizabeth Poliner’s poems are of painting, literature, and music, of family, memory, and loss. Whether set in Washington, D.C., the small Connecticut town of her childhood, or the coast of Maine, these poems speak with uncommon clarity and musicality as they explore the complexity of the human heart.

“Elizabeth Poliner’s What You Know In Your Hands is so fiercely intelligent, deeply thoughtful, emotionally resonant, modestly crafted, and lucid that it reminds us readers that what we’ve always wanted from contemporary poetry is still available, albeit in short supply. Maybe it takes a lifetime student of visual art and music with legal training to give us literally art that’s both plainspoken and quietly sublime.”
– David Huddle
author of Blacksnake at the Family Reunion and Glory River
“The affectionate and affecting poems of poet and novelist Elizabeth Poliner remind us of poetry’s power to save and savor again what is lost, to bring it close once more: to restore, as her title suggests, what you have by heart because you have learned it hands on, by being in touch. Especially remarkable is ‘Sudden Fog,’ a moving account of the characters’ good-bye to their author when the writing is done, verifying the mysterious nature and freedom of what we create.”
– Eleanor Wilner
author of Tourist in Hell
“Full of life, of weather, of the specific feel of childhood, the feel of wall-to-wall carpeting on ‘bare legs, / the smalls of our backs,’ the poems of Elizabeth Poliner’s debut collection, What You Know in Your Hands, contemplate love and loss and potential, and especially the transformative nature of art: ‘that day and this day, all of it pushed forth with a palette knife.’ These are poems poised to capture that vision ‘fast and peripheral, we’re forever / unprepared for, like now when the sailboat suddenly lifts, heels, / telling us something new, utterly surprising, about the wind.”
– Carol Moldaw
author of So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems



By Debra Wierenga, “Quick Takes: Three First Books,” Poet Lore, Vol. 111, No. 1 / 2 (2016)


Web Reprints

BlueThe Writer’s Almanac, read by Garrison Keillor, January 28, 2016
Thinking About Six Bach Sonatas for Flute and Piano While Vacationing in Maine”, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Winter 2004
Students Painting in the Community Garden on Newark Street”, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, October 2009
Looking at Buds”, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Fall 2013