The Devil's Fools

By Mary Gilliland

Subjects: Poetry, Ecofeminist
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781949933161, 82 pages, December 2022

Table of contents

1. The Woman in the Hat Paused, Mole-Eyed

2. Lyre

3. God of the Vine

4. Proserpine

5. The Fertile Land

6. Slip

7. Drenched

9. Lit with Radiance

10. Holy Island

11. Rosslyn Chapel’s Artisans

14. Converse

15. No Outlet

16. Cain

17. Midlothian

18. Quarantine in the Borders

19. ‘to dust’ / The Cattle of the Sun

21. Wake Me

22. Dionysus

23. The Wild Celery

24. Intermittent Pipe

25. Heat Wave

26. Among the Trees

34. Sabbath

35. Synergy

37. We Live in Syn / Chronicity

38. No, but I Got the Laundry Done

39. Why She Can’t Eat the Light

41. She Wanted My Hearts the Same Way

42. Going Places

43. The Adversary

44. The Way I Talk

45. Growth Rings

46. Winter in the Garden

47. Blackbilled Cuckoo

48. Dog Day Harvestfly

49. Larger Than Life

50. Because in The Leafpile I Pitchforked a Yellowjacket Nest

51. Nemesis

52. About to Burn Her Dress

53. Stirrings

54. Critical Mass — Disposed of

55. The Bargain

56. Scottish Roots

58. Motherwort

59. My Dirty Yes to Life

60. Your Mouth on Me

61. Fresh Coffee After You Are Gone

62. Air

63. The Language of Bees

64. Migration

Infused with eco-logic, informed by feminism, and taking cues from Eve, Cain, Proserpine, Ulysses, Parsifal, and selves present and past, the fifty poems of The Devil’s Fools question and illustrate myths of nature and the nature of inherited myth.


Subverting received traditions, embellishing mythic figures, the lyrics of The Devil's Fools speak to and for those wanting heaven: modern pilgrims, medieval masons; seafarer, axe murderer, alcoholic; daughter, spouse, sibling, mother; a woman on pause, a monarch of the underworld, Eve stepping out past Eden. One country bombs another, there's mass animal slaughter during epidemic, never-ending yard work, love letters from the dead. Humans sorrow and glory, mourn and thrive, treasure the will to live—with burdock and mushroom, apple and willow, cicada, cuckoo, brontosaurus, toad. The poems represent wild and delicious creaturely delusion, deception, vigor, and joy.

Mary Gilliland is the author of the award-winning poetry collection The Ruined Walled Castle Garden. Her poems have been widely published in print and online literary journals and most recently anthologized in Rumors, Secrets, & Lies: Poems about Pregnancy, Abortion & Choice; Wild Gods: The Ecstatic in Contemporary Poetry and Prose; and Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands. She is a past recipient of the Stanley Kunitz Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a Council on the Arts Faculty Grant from Cornell University, where she created and taught seminars such as "Ecosystems & Ego Systems" and "America Dreaming."


"Mary Gilliland's magisterial new collection, The Devil's Fools, opens in myth and magic, but its vast reach is deeply rooted in her reverence for earth and all earthly creations. For Gilliland, to give a brief example, even so lowly a creature as the harvestfly—whose 'aqua / lighter blue' wings as it hatches—has given us 'the origin of faerie.' At once eco-sensual and erudite, Gilliland writes a nuanced poetry that richly investigates humanity's contradictory capacities to destroy and to love, 'Love's a maker,' as the tour-de-force poem at the heart of this volume, 'Among the Trees,' puts it. From first to last, I am spellbound by the largesse of vision and the beauty of this wondrous collection." — Cynthia Hogue, author of In June the Labyrinth

"The Devil's Fools is a great collection of burnished, mercurial poems. Here Mary Gilliland turns every small, disappearing moment into something magnanimous and lasting. Mythical and grounded, her sensuously rich language enacts a poetry in which self-concentration brims beyond the far reach of desire, passion, and the self. Supremely gifted, Gilliland's The Devil's Fools is one of the most daring, unfoolable books in recent memory." — Ishion Hutchinson, author of House of Lords and Commons

"From the opening line, 'We have plenty of stories,' to the finale, Mary Gilliland's The Devil's Fools proves a wide-ranging narrative which incorporates tales from classical myth, the Bible, the speaker's daily life, set in a world eroticized yet also spiritual. Through her stories, Gilliland examines the tensions of heterosexual relationships, a search for the divine in contemporary life, mystery in the daily. This book is both journey and celebration, glowing and tender. In a poetry full of images from the physical world, nature around us and the body's earthliness, Gilliland gives us her 'dirty yes to life'." — Mary Crow, Poet Laureate of Colorado, author of I Have Tasted the Apple

"To see through Mary Gilliland's eyes is to experience afresh and anew the wonders of encounter with the liminal, the mysterious, and the all too ubiquitous but largely unseen. Enjoy the ride! As Gilliland calls us in Dionysus's voice, 'Greet me by Apollo's marble door, Meet me where Artemis drops spoor, Find me in the shadows of reliefs.' Indeed I will—and what a joy and journey awaits!" — Heidi M. Ravven, author of The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will