Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

88 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2024

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-80-9

Pre-order Only
Will publish October 2024

The Alcestis Machine


Carolyn Oliver

In Greek mythology, Alcestis descends to the mysterious kingdom of death in her beloved’s place. In The Alcestis Machine, Carolyn Oliver’s second poetry collection, loss and queer desire echo across the multiverse. “In another life, I’m a . . .” sea witch or swineherd, vampire or troubadour, florist or fossil or museum guard, Oliver writes. These parallel personas inhabit space stations and medieval villages, excavate the Devonian seabed, and plumb a subterranean Anthropocene. In possible futures and imagined pasts, they might encounter “all wrong turns and broken signs” or carry “a suitcase full of stars.”

Oliver’s poems are animated by lush, unsettling verse and forms both traditional and experimental. The Alcestis Machine demonstrates how very present absence can be and how desire knows no boundaries. In neighborhood subdivisions or the vast reaches of space, it’s impossible to know “whose time is slipping / again.” Anyone “could come loose / from gravity’s shine.”

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About the Author

Carolyn Oliver is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble. Her most recent chapbook is Night Ocean. Born in Buffalo and raised in Ohio, she now lives with her family in Massachusetts. Her website is


Photo Credit: Benjamin Oliver

Praise for The Alcestis Machine

“Celestial and lush, Carolyn Oliver’s second poetry collection, The Alcestis Machine, vibrates with connection. The anaphoric incantation “In another life” opens many of the collections poems, taking the reader through a lyric, imaginative wilderness of possibility. I, or we, become—through Oliver’s inventive and formally ambitious lens—cosmologists, orchards, and interpreters, traveling through galaxies, relationships, and climates with our “suitcase[s] full of stars.” And when we zoom in close to life’s intimacies, like “the pleasure / of warm water coursing over my hands // after I peeled tonight’s potatoes,” Oliver’s acts of witness tenderly move us from the cosmos to deep inside the body. I am grateful to The Alcestis Machine for all that it illuminates, both as a poet and as an awe-filled reader.”
Rachel Mennies, author of The Naomi Letters

“Carolyn Oliver’s spellbinding poems invite us to live many lives in this universe of many universes. Why simply brave the underworld to save a beloved when we can traverse across imaginative worlds and inhabit ourselves anew like a “machine [that] self-destructs and must be made again.” The Alcestis Machine offers us the joy of “In another life I am . . .” arresting us with poems of pure movement through the possible. Oliver unlocks worlds of necessary pleasure and worlds of necessary questions: “This is love, isn’t it? Leaving holes in our stories / as moths make lace from their hunger?” Indeed, in The Alcestis Machine, all “surfaces break into each other” and I, for one, am so grateful for it.”
Hannah Larrabee, author of Wonder Tissue and The Observable Universe

“Carolyn Oliver’s brilliant experimental book is rooted in the mysterious and the innovative avant-garde. Once you read a few poems or prose poems from this collection: I dare you to stop! Quirky, exquisite, surreal, seductive, an absolute gem of a collection. This book shines, sings with a singular voice and vision. Bravo, poet!”
Jose Hernandez Diaz, author of Bad Mexican, Bad American