Comprised of four heroic crowns of sonnets, Alicia Mountain’s Four in Hand is both formal and experimental, ranging from lyric romantic and familial narratives to blank verses of reconfigured found text pulled from financial newsletter emails. Language and white space equally captivate with their sparsity and abundance as Mountain pursues the implications of national political identity with intersectional awareness. These poems interrogate our collective complicity in late-stage capitalism, drone warfare, the election of Donald Trump, environmental degradation, mental health crises, and the dawn of Covid-19 through the lens of gay poetic lineage, regionalism, and familial kinships structures.
As in all lived experiences, treacheries and triumphs fade in and out of focus and intimacy, heartbreak, travel, eroticism, joy, and quotidian happenings offer character and momentum across non-linear narrative arcs. Through enthralling images, gripping storytelling, and world-building, Four in Hand carves out necessary space for lesbian gaze, speakership, and personhood. From the back corner of a vast, sprawling, yet gorgeous landscape of thought, Mountain's poems beckon us inside.
Excerpt from "Train Town Howl"
This book is a monument to touch,
even with its hands in its pockets.
Even with your hair in your eyes as
disguise, there is no making public
how we push and pull in dark corners.
The beehive whispers when it sees our
hands touch, the train town howls and
howls. The rough face smiles beside yours.
Lick my teeth in the daylight. Still no
chaser. Still no closer to extinguishing
the bolt of my lightning you hold captive.
I have held the bright storm of you
hot in my hands. I would do it again,
however quick, however long it lasts.
Praise for Four in Hand
“In Alicia Mountain’s Four in Hand, the speaker tells us that the book is ‘a monument to touch,’ but more pointedly, it plays with an erotics of geography where thunder ‘spanks the hills,’ where one is encouraged to ‘drink the tidal push,’ where ‘tectonic shifts are underway.’ What is Mountain telling the reader about a storm that cannot be felt until the moment we feel ‘wrung out’ by its torrent? About a howl that cannot relieve what a beloved has buried within them? In these four sonnet crowns, each masterfully executed with their own distinct rhetorical and linguistic logics, Mountain enacts an alternative to catharsis; posits a kind of anti-catharsis. There is no rising action and then relief, instead Mountain interpolates what happens when the world does not change, but repeats, and insists on its tired holding patterns. Four in Hand doesn't simply tackle the failings of global health industries, the precarity of queer spaces, or how the language of risk and resilience end up recoding bodies through capital, it commands something else of ‘our sharp parts.’ It points us to an elsewhere of possibilities.”
— Megan Fernandes, author of Good Boys
“Four in Hand applies the gentle pressure of imagination to the possible world. Intimacy and expansiveness, grounded in episodic grace and sensual generosity, fuel Alicia Mountain’s work. Her words present us with beauty and allow us to revel in it, despite feeling ‘held tight like too much hope.’ We are shown emotional and environmental devastation, and given the music to reckon with the painful awareness that transforms best into action, repeated. Four in Hand is a blood rush, a mode of love in language crafted with care and immersion and insistence, harnessing the power of ‘a swarm/keeping quiet when I want to howl.’”
— Khadijah Queen, author of Anodyne
“Heroic, indeed. These poems are dauntless. In Four in Hand, Alicia Mountain’s sonnet series refuses the pull of thematic or stylistic singularity & favors instead the unrelenting materiality of interpersonal collage & sociopolitical pastiche. Mountain has not only satisfied the demands of all great crowns, but bettered them: with the language of politics, illness, class warfare, & the intimacy of the lesbian gaze, Four in Hand sweetens the cycle of our times—pandemic within pandemic—& pulls us back inside the volta where we remember our own humanity & haven’t yet forgotten one another’s. What a phenomenal & necessary feat.”
— Meg Day, author of Last Psalm at Sea Level
Publication Date: 04/04/2023