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Pleasure Principle


“To blurb a poetry collection is often to participate in a tradition of commercial hyperbole that great poetry itself resists; books like Madeleine Cravens’s brilliant and utterly crystalline debut make this contradiction all the starker." —MAGGIE MILLNER


An astonishing debut collection of poems about desire and the chaos of youth.

In her stunning debut collection, Madeleine Cravens explores desire in all its transgressive power and wildness. Pleasure and pain are inextricable in these carefully observed poems, capturing a young woman on the threshold of adulthood as she seeks to understand herself. With a hard-edged vulnerability and singularly bold style, Cravens is unsparing about the struggle to make sense of one’s longings.

Taking us from the parks and plazas of Brooklyn to the freeways of California, these poems allow us to watch a life unfold where “womanhood felt like an incorrect container,” and love is performed “in the historic way, with bartering and harsh alliances.” As Cravens casts her questioning eye across the possibilities of queer relationships and the curious shapes of family bonds—both the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose—she urges readers to consider how we become ourselves.

Moving, captivating, and funny, Pleasure Principle heralds the arrival of a fearless and vibrant new voice in American poetry.