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Incantations: Poems

Incantations: Poems

By Darnell ArnoultPublisher: Madville PublishingISBN: Paperback 978-1-956440-77-5; Ebook ISBN: 978-1-956440-78-2 Genre: PoetryPrice: Paperback: $18.9; Ebook: $9.99

Out of grief, upheaval, derision, disappointment, and change of all kinds—from the intimate to the mythic—Incantations both admonishes and rails. Darnell Arnoult’s evocative collection unleashes frustration and longing in tongues of fire. And while her poems walk heaven’s blues home in a rush of images, real and imagined, they point to an undergirding optimism and path toward healing and hope where joy lies “dazed and waiting.” The spells cast here are beyond magic, beyond human—no less than urgent, no more than what’s necessary to begin again.

Darnell Arnoult is author of the novel Sufficient Grace (Simon & Schuster, 2006), poetry collections What Travels With Us (LSU Press, 2005), Galaxie Wagon (LSU Press, 2016), and Incantations: Poems (Madville Publishing, 2024). Her shorter works have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She holds BA from UNC-CH, an MA from NCSU, and an MFA from University of Memphis. She offers a constellation of workshops and services for writers and writing communities and is a regular faculty member of Table Rock Writers Workshop and at the John C. Campbell Folk School. She is the recipient of the Southern Book Sellers Association Poetry Book of the Year Prize, Weatherford Award, Chaffin Award, and Hobson Award in Arts and Letters. She lives with her family in Mebane, NC and is a member of St. Matthew’s. For more about Darnell, visit darnellarnoult.net.


Darnell Arnoult has written some of the South’s most memorable poems of the past quarter-century, and Incantations is her most evocative and mysterious book. This collection shimmers and sparks with an electricity I hear in ‘that thin, wild mercury sound, metallic and gold and whatever that conjures up’ that Bob Dylan envisioned. Arnoult offers strange and beautiful images steeped in sonic and metaphorical richness: ‘Sun rhythms over a howling serpent telling / you rain is long gone and her children, / light as Venus and drunk as owls, / flood judgment.’ These glorious poems manage to be both sharp-edged and lush, a parabolic book of paradoxes, and as ‘Morning’ reminds us, ‘Glory talks in a hard language.’ Listen. Let the widening spell of Incantations transport you through dark portals and back into the welcome and needed light.

— Jesse Graves, Merciful Days and Said-Songs: Essays on Poetry and Place

‘Believe in Death,’ one line begins in Darnell Arnoult’s Incantations, and then it ends, ‘Believe in Love.’ The two twine in these poems that are chants, spells, what we say in moments of joy and tribulation as we search for ‘fragmented ghosts / in the stars.’ Throughout, Arnoult ‘talks in a hard language’ that creates a ‘blizzard of hallelujahs.’ And readers, you will open this book and be changed.

Jim Minick, The Intimacy of Spoons

These poems boom and sing. They are tooth and balm and gut. They howl into vine-covered chasms and plumb the depths of human sorrow while traversing a landscape of shadow and ghost. There is an impossible frailty to the world Arnoult conjures and an impossible strength. Here are prayers wrought of gravel and old pine, choked weeds and rising water—but also of marsh birds and shimmering grasses. A thunderous collection. Blazing and true.

Sonja Livingston, Ghostbread