Dark Braid

THE BOOK: Dark Braid


THE AUTHOR: Dara Yen Elerath

THE EDITOR: Ben Furnish


SUMMARY: Winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, selected by Doug Ramspeck. Through the use of imagination, fairy tale and persona Dark Braid bridges the universal and the personal, focusing on the body, problematic relationships, illness (both mental and physical) and feelings of being an outsider.

THE BACK STORY: Many of the poems in this collection were written during my MFA and shortly after I graduated. I was trying to make sense of my identity as a writer and Dark Braid contains these early explorations. While it is very much a work of the imagination, it captures the state of mind I was in at the time I wrote it and expresses my growing (and continued) interest in fabulistic and imaginative poetry and literature. During my MFA I was engaging with hybrid authors such as Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and Mary Ruefle. These influences may not be immediately apparent in my work; however, their model of genre-crossing literature formed the basis of my interest in the prose poem. Dark Braid contains a number of these unlineated poems, which have become central to my poetic interests.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title of this book was drawn from a poem I considered including in the collection but ultimately cut. The central image in the poem was that of a braid of black hair (belonging to a lover) that eventually transforms into a noose; this image seemed to encapsulate some of the themes of the book, it also addressed the notion of toxic symbiosis—the braiding together of love and dysfunction that can characterize certain relationships. When considering this weaving I was thinking not only of poisonous threads that might bind us to others, but threads that might be internalized to constitute the warp and weft of our beings.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This collection would appeal to someone who is drawn toward dark, imaginative writing with a fable-like, fairy tale orientation. My work, overall, tends to straddle the line between poetry and prose, so I would recommend Dark Braid to those who might typically read fiction or flash fiction and are interested in exploring poetry.


“In Dark Braid, Dara Yen Elerath’s dark and disturbing debut collection, the poet crafts fables for the body. In ‘The Survival of My Wound,” she writes:

‘Will you tend me, my wound asks, as you tend your garden?’

“With a scrupulous eye for the body’s frailties, the poet crafts urgent and eloquent elegies and autopsies, the scalpel of her language exposing bone. In poem after poem, Elerath chronicles in spare and suggestive narratives the fairy tales of living inside the confines of skin, and exposes the feral underbelly of personal myth.” — Doug Ramspeck, prize judge

“Dark Braid, Dara Elerath’s first book of poems, leads the reader into parallel worlds where beauty exists alongside the grotesque; animals, flowers, and food sit alongside death. Like dripping jewels, each of Elerath’s poems is a glimmering collage of images clipped from anatomy and botany books, old Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales and from the pages of fashion magazines. Mythic, and yet grounded in the contemporary, these masterful poems are delightful: a surprising and exquisite poetry collection.” — – Cynthia Cruz

“Dark Braid is a gift from the sky: its violence, its beauty, its endlessness, its suffocation, its water, its wind. The book reimagines the poetic line and touches our face with new possibilities of sound, rhyme, form, and image. There is something about the southwest and its influence on the poets who call its high deserts and big skies home; I think it’s the evening.” — Jake Skeets

AUTHOR PROFILE: Dara Yen Elerath is a mixed-race, Chinese-American author born in California and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Initially drawn toward the visual arts, she received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of New Mexico and a BFA in Graphic Design from the Southwest University of Visual Arts. She went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and published her first collection, Dark Braid, in 2020. Her work is informed by her interest in imaginative, fabulist and hybrid literature. A multi-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she is the recipient of both the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the New Flash Fiction Review Award. Her work can be found in journals and venues such as the Academy of American Poets, POETRY Magazine, the American Poetry Review, AGNI and Poet Lore among others.


“Hansel and Gretel in Reverse” in The Los Angeles Review: https://losangelesreview.org/hansel-gretel-reverse-dara-elerath/

“Testimony of an Armless Man” in Plume: https://plumepoetry.com/testimony-of-an-armless-man/

Further samples available here: https://www.daraelerath.com/poetry

LOCAL OUTLETS: Page One Books, Bookworks

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: University of Arkansas Press, Amazon.

PRICE: $14.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: daralinette@gmail.com

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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