Knock by Melissa Atkinson Mercer

Knock by Melissa Atkinson Mercer

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About the book

In this fiercely musical, highly anticipated debut release from Half Mystic Press, Melissa Atkinson Mercer interrogates the width, weight, and wholeness of depression, calling out to a self reflected back as monster, as myth, as song and water and tongue. Knock asks us to consider the complications of gender and voice: who gets to speak, who gets listened to, whose stories turn to fact and whose to fiction. Unflinching and tender, this book reminds us what it takes to navigate the mind’s dark seas and come out alive. 

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Advance praise

The incantatory poems in Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s Knock “speak miracle and rage,” insistent as daybreak or high tide. These poems are reclamation spells that celebrate and reassemble the untamed, the “witch heart,” the “undarkened bell” of speech: where “mountains are the tongues of women buried for the sin of lust” and “the sea is the tongue of the woman who loved kings.” As elegiac as it is visionary, this collection invokes a “matriarchal oath” to bless the darkness inside and around us. —Emari DiGiorgio, author of The Things a Body Might Become and Girl Torpedo 

Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s Knock is a stunning and startling exploration of sorrow and of strength. This book is both the myth of creation and of apocalypse, of how we are built and how we are destroyed. The stakes are high in these poems: “which story will you believe”, we’re asked, “the one where they died / or the one where they died differently”. Mercer gives us both, but in a new language, the language of dismissed goddesses hoping to find homes for their silenced tongues, and her poems refuse to choose for us. These poems sing as they disturb, they fly while they allow their speakers to drown, and they call us to make sense of a senseless world while reminding us it didn’t have to be so senseless. “what use is a tongue like mine” – one need only read Knock to find the answer, and what a glorious and impressive answer it is. —Anthony Frame, author of Where Wind Meets Wing and editor of Glass Poetry Press

The haunting and lucid speakers in Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s Knock are at once testimonial, song and portent to the psyche’s anguished interiors, “We woke in the wet black heat / to the sad song our mother knew.”  Mercer deftly crafts this maternal lineage with an authentic connection to all the vernaculars of language, palpably casting a light on the impediments of the mind. Mercer’s incantations are arresting at every turn—as the poet confronts each threshold with an uncanny sense of observation, so pristinely rendering the dualities of our enigmatic natures, “The world was a small, dark shape & we entered it.” Artful, fierce and lyrical, these poems cast a spell on the reader indelibly. This book took me hostage, released me more alive and enlightened. —Cynthia Atkins, author of In the Event of Full Disclosure 

“Before fire was ever fire … there was just this,” and these poems. Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s poetry riles, rich with magic and music. With the keen eye of an imagist, the poet welcomes us into a rich and raw new perspective of a familiar world. Capturing the form of interrogation, Knock asks what it means to define, to be defined. What good is naming, the poet asks, when the world has no interest in a complicated answer? Knock integrates found text into the confessional mode, confronting depression and suicide without apology. “I lean toward the difficult,” our speaker assures us. ”I have something to say.” Musical and elusive, she won’t be silenced. —Stacey Balkun, author of Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak and Lost City Museum

Press & reader reviews

"As if named by, or for, a shape, Melissa Atkinson Mercer’s Knock extracts myth from the clinically elusive and gives oath an otherness that is unanswerable and local. Ritual is not routine, here, and voice not theft. With creatures unperceived by human brevity, Mercer not only honors the bodies that move from story to story but grants the before-life of their speaking an expanse in which to lead footprint by the mouth away from tightrope’s shadow. A stilling testimony of mobile cessations, Knock is exit music for silence." A review by Barton Smock on Goodreads

“This book is incredible. The language is haunting and beautiful, the imagery was fantastic and overall it had this mystical, dreamy quality that I adored. … It's beautifully written, it has this amazing ethereal feel, and I really loved it.” A review by Helen on Goodreads

"I’m obsessed with tongues: the tongue as speech, as selfhood, as hunger. The tongue as the locus of agency, an intermediary between body and voice." A guest post by Melissa Atkinson Mercer for Books for a Delicate Eternity

"There’s this desire to be heard, to be acknowledged. It’s almost like staring into the abyss, up to the stars, and waiting for them to remember us. Knock has this primordial imagery in it, a beauty in the circle of life, and in its destruction and savage curiosity." A review by Lilli for Utopia State of Mind

"Knock is a beautiful haunting story told in poetry. I believe it may be best with repeated readings as I know I will most certainly be doing." A review by Amber on Goodreads

“The collection has an air of simmering tension around it, creeping notes of something haunting yet wildly mesmerising.  The pages are home to an abundance of imagery, sometimes confusing and requiring second reading but mostly rich and evocative. The words sing from the page, loudly, firmly. They sing of suffering and healing and truth. Each word carefully selected and arranged, imploring you to listen, just listen. Reading was simultaneously like trying to stay afloat, gulping down mouthfuls of water, and then: a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief. Here I am, this is who I am and what I have to say, the voices in the book whisper, like a bird breaking free of its chains, shaking its wings and finding flight, soaring into the sky.” A review by Beverly for Word Drift

“Unflinching in its exploration of diverse pre-occupations, best discovered through a series of close reading than a hurried summarization. The poems burgeon in between the paradigms of spaces, to bewilder and redefine. There is a recurrent visibility these poems render to the consciousness which is whole in its longing.” A review by Sneha Subramanian Kanta for Parentheses Journal

"So beautiful, so dark, so mysterious, and the poems reflect how, in society, women are silenced and looked down upon." A review by Chloe Yeung on Goodreads

“An absolutely stunning work. Knock is myth and nature and music intertwined into something so beautiful that it lingers with you long after reading. ‘Our souls paused like kites in the salt-grass & I'm sorry but what you said about me was always about you’—I mean, come on.” A review by Caitlin Conlon on Goodreads

“It is difficult sitting down with Knock and not feel the blood drain from beneath your skin. That is, without feeling the air leave your lungs with such great force you keel over. That is, without tingling hands and tongues too big for your mouth, unable to fully give voice to the sheer, indescribable impact of this shocking and beautifully-cultivated body of work." A review by Kanika Lawton for L'Éphémère Review

"Here, one will find poems that are constantly aware of their voice and reach, enticing the reader rather than requisitioning them. It is a collection that never demands anything, neither time nor attention, willing to keep giving constantly until it has laid its poetic heart bare for examination and critical scrutiny." A review by Margaryta Golovchenko for The Coil

Reader photos

About the author

Melissa Atkinson Mercer is the author of the full-length poetry collection Saint of the Partial Apology (Five Oaks Press, 2017) as well as five chapbooks. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Moon City Review, Zone 3, Blue Earth Review, and A Portrait in Blues: An Anthology of Identity, Gender and Bodies, among others. She has an MFA from West Virginia University, where she won the Russell MacDonald Creative Writing Award in Poetry. She currently works and teaches at Lees-McRae College.