New book: Ascend Ascend

third man books, april 2019


Written over the course of twenty days, coming in and out of trance states brought on by intermittent fasting and somatic rituals while secluded in the tower of a 100-year-old church, Ascend Ascend is Janaka Stucky's most powerful book to date.

Rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition of Hekhalot literature, which chronicles an ascent up the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to witness the Merkabah, or “chariot of God,” this book-length poem drafts a surreal, mythological landscape in which maximalist language shreds the natural world. Light becomes rainbowed sex. Intestines tangle into an aria. The sky is gallowed. At the center of this apocalyptic devastation stands the speaker of these poems, asserting: I explode. I shall love. I ascend. Stucky’s verse reminds us that even as we sink deeper and deeper into unknown darkness, we become our own flashlight beaming outward.

Equal parts Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” Ascend Ascend makes us both passenger and witness as we participate in the ecstatic destruction of the self through its union with the divine.

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Janaka Stucky is extraordinary, and his work riveting.
— Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin
It is steeped in soil, rot, stardust, moonlight, the dissolution of the self, and ‘heartblood pouring from a ram horn/ On the pubic shadow of the earth.’ Part prayer, part yowl, part spell, it’s grounded in the ancient and the occult.
— The Boston Globe
Ascend Ascend is a mystical epic in which visionary experience continually emerges from life in the world ... Through fractured prayers, incantation, and lithe entreaties that refigure spiritual conventions, Stucky suggests that revelation is pragmatic, inexhaustible, and vital to questions of identity and community.
— BOMB Magazine
Ascend Ascend is a passionate trance poem of praise, incantation and divination … One is grateful, in these imperiled times, for such forceful ritual and invocation: ‘Every word along the way / Lit like a flame upon / The wick of its origin.’
— Anne Waldman, author of Trickster Feminism
Stucky’s writing is a miracle, not only in its genius, but in its generosity. This is a love poem that shocks with secret links and revelations. It will lift you out of whoever you think you are.
— Pam Grossman, host of The Witch Wave podcast
A genuine return to a poetry of extasis, both in experience & in language. Breathtaking and wonderful, I’m truly delighted to add Ascend Ascend to my repertory of contemporary works.
— Jerome Rothenberg, editor of Technicians of the Sacred