Sand Theory

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-5217-5
Publication Date
February 2011
Page Count
96 pages
Trim Size
6.125 x 8.5

Sand Theory


The poems in Sand Theory, William Olsen’s fifth collection to date, bristle with intellect, sensitivity, and ambition. Engaging poets from William Blake to Theodore Roethke, Olsen takes aim at grand questions of spirituality, the instability of meaning, and the individual’s relationship with the natural world. Yet Olsen’s lithe and sinuous poems wear their metaphysical concerns lightly, shifting easily between the immediate perceptions of a passing moment and observations offered as if from a great distance, outside of time and space. 

The energy of Olsen’s poems is generated by his ability to meld the intellectual and the emotional, the abstract and the concrete, into a seamless whole while maintaining a sense of wit and playfulness. Sand Theory cements Olsen’s standing as one of the most vital poets writing today, an audacious chronicler of “the supremely open moment.”
About the Author

W illiam Olsen is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western Michigan University. He is the author of four books of poetry, including Avenue of Vanishing, Trouble Lights, and Vision of a Storm Cloud, all published by Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books.


"With each book, William Olsen's work centers more intensely upon ordinary experience. And with each book Olsen's work becomes at once more empathetic and more visionary. The real world in Sand Theory is not a world of mere appearances. It is real. Temporality makes it so, as does morality. And yet Olsen maintains a permeable boundary beyond which is what? The eternal? The spiritual? Whatever name one chooses, its illumination shines through these poems." —Stuart Dybek

"Sand Theory is a book of poems that sound as if they belong to life after this (and I am reminded of Rilke's musing that one should be given a day and a room, after death, in which to write) and as such the book does not belong to a singular voice (astonishing as it is) but to the very idea of voice, what it means, and meant, and why this trust; so when this book gives good advice about hanging on, or 'merciful instructions' for letting go, know it is a book that is talking you back to life, as it leaves you breathless." —Mary Ruefle

"To walk into Bill Olsen's poems is to enter a mind so weirdly curious, you can't be released to sadness, not yet: it's just too surprising. But this book—half microscope, half telescope—shadows grief, our shared and ordinary life where a neighbor obsessively gathers twigs to wish back the tree, where the moon is regularly 'sawn in half', where sprinklers give off 'little wet speeches.' What else? It's brilliantly instead and odd." —Marianne Boruch