Be the thing of memory

THE BOOK: Be the thing of memory


THE AUTHOR: Carrie Olivia Adams.

THE EDITOR: Heather Lang-Cassera.

THE PUBLISHER: Tolsun Books.

SUMMARY: Drawing on found text from a variety of historical sources, Be the thing of memory is composed of four long poems built from erasures, specifically from the autobiography of Sophia Tolstoy, a mid-century girl scout handbook, an auditory testing guide, and writings on or by Sarah Hackett Stevenson and Alice Magaw, two of the earliest women in medicine in the United States. Part archivist, part architect, Carrie Olivia Adams excavates the stories of women—famous, forgotten, and ordinary—from history and enters into dialogue with them, giving voice to the continuity of experience and humanity that is our shared foundation. The poems move from feral fields to a dark trail in the woods to the fire of the mind while the weight of tiny things converges with the weight of story itself. Uncertainty. Disbelief. Resilience. Tell me What do you hear And with what ear do you hear it?

THE BACK STORY: The poems were written over a period of five years during which I was closely involved in collaborations with choreographers, dancers, and an experimental musician, and they are the direct output of that work, either forming the foundation of a dance or created in response to a composition in-progress. They are also formed by collaboration with texts, both historic and esoteric, and the long poem The Pain Killer was written during my time as artist-in-residence at the International Museum of Surgical Science.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title comes from a line in the “Proficiency Badges” series, and I think that much of my work is in conversation with memory, both reliable and unreliable, comforting and unnerving.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I write my poems for the shy quiet places and for those of us trying to stitch together some sense of the world one word at a time. I want the poems to be a companion to our imperfections.


Praise for Carrie Olivia Adams

“This poetry is magic. Ultimately, Adams challenges her readers to observe intensely the world around us, to decide for ourselves which particulars are clues to be deciphered and which questions are asking for our answers.”—Marisa Siegel, Rumpus

“As Adams nimbly unfolds language, she opens tunnels of thought and illuminates the misconceptions we have of our emotions and our selves. Her precise and insightful language shifts and reshapes us, causes us to pause and reconsider the world we thought we lived in, the things we thought we knew.”—Laura Isaacman, Coffin Factory.

“Adams offers a graceful synthesis of poetic and scientific language. Everyday experiences become a locus for vastly different discourses—literary, scientific, and historical—which overlap and intersect as they are inscribed upon a single concrete image.”—Kristina Marie Darling, Colorado Review

“You read a lot of books of poetry when you’re a poet yourself. Some will move you and some will not. But I love the ones where you can’t read a page without wanting to write some poetry of your own because this writer inspires you that much. Carrie Olivia Adams is just such a writer.”—Chris Mansel, Galatea Resurrects

AUTHOR PROFILE: Carrie Olivia Adams lives in Chicago where she is the Promotions and Marketing Communications Director for the University of Chicago Press and the co-founder and poetry editor for the indie press Black Ocean. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, Be the thing of memory (Tolsun Books 2021); Operating Theater (Noctuary Press 2015); Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013); and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009) in addition to the chapbooks “Proficiency Badges” (Meeking Press 2020); “Grapple” (above/ground press 2017); “Overture in the Key of F” (above/ground press 2013); and “A Useless Window” (Black Ocean 2007). When she’s not making poetry, she’s usually making biscuits. Fittingly, she is a curator of the Poetry and Biscuits salon reading series.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My work, including pieces made while the Artist-in-Residence at the International Museum of Surgical Science, draws on found text and antique source material to tell the quiet stories of overlooked women. I like to collaborate with dancers, choreographers, and musicians to create works that expand beyond the static page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: You can order books direct from me via email.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: The book is available from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, and your favorite bookseller through

PRICE: $18.00.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find me on Twitter @publicityspy and through my website.

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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