As a bird learns to sing first by listening, Andy Stallings’s Paradise is attuned and attentive to surrounding song. Stallings’s second collection’s interests are as various as the paradises that scaffold a life: paradises lost in memory’s mutable echo or fleetingly glimpsed in “the depth of a living tree,” in children squabbling or sketching colorful “scribulations,” in “such gloss, and sway, and / transparent grace as paradise / deftly affords.” Of course, “The value of tolerance for / paradise varies depending on / the tolerance, the paradise,” and Stallings awes at some versions while working to dismantle others. The praise that emerges in this careful awareness is tender, grave, and full of delight. In Paradise, the inherent dignity of each thing— animal, vegetable, familial, ethereal—pulses into profound focus: “Nothing in / the universe is delicate / at scale.” “The stem of a flower should / not suffice to hold up / the weight of the blossom. / And yet.”
Andy Stallings lives and works at Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts. His first book, To the Heart of the World, was published by Rescue Press in 2014. With Melissa Dickey, he is a parent to four young children, and he coaches boys’ cross country.