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Charm Offensive

Charm Offensive

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Out NOW | Poetry | Paperback

Charm Offensive, Ross White’s debut poetry collection, explores the space between Dickinson’s directive to tell the truth slant and the universal reality of seeing the truth slant without knowing it. Charting the ways that tenderness can resolve into dissonance and uncertainty can resolve into transcendence, Charm Offensive crackles with the dangers of being alive and the joys of remaining defiant. At turns playful and surreal, exuberant and somber, these poems urge readers to find something new to trust in the world.

Ross White’s Charm Offensive is an epistemic delight. When White writes, “I am ready to leave/this body, ready to ascend to star if you beat me out of me,” we understand how deeply the narrator of these poems seeks relief from the self, from the minor (paunchy belly) and major (failing heart) indignities of aging, from the indignity of daily living among indifferent gods. Who among us hasn’t looked inside a fortune cookie, hoping for knowledge of a better day? But White knows that the best teacher we have is the love we feel for another, for their beauty and their damage, for the love that accepts our self when we cannot. Finally, and most essentially, these poems are funny, and the ultimate joke is our touchingly unflagging persistence.  — Rebecca Hazelton, author of Gloss

Opening with the declaration "I like too many things," Ross White's highly-anticipated Charm Offensive bursts with abundance while being devoted to locating and cataloging the world's marvels. Between ocean quahogs, plane tickets left on a dresser, fortune cookies, EKG machines, and statues of both David and Ronald McDonald—this poet constantly reveals the mythic in unexpected containers. Gods (new and old) surface again and again, as do their absences and eccentricities. These poems dazzle with their wit and panache, then daringly reach for the spectacular and divine. — Matthew Olzmann, author of Constellation Route 

A poet of wry humor and surprising juxtapositions, of history both societal and personal, of the finely-turned phrase that houses duality along with the sudden shock of surprise, Ross White is a true son to both Wallace Stevens and Frank O’Hara. “Pain is the great teacher,” White writes early in Charm Offensive, and yet what we receive is not a collection that has merely arisen from pain but one in which pain accompanies like an old friend. White is a poet who marries a razor-sharp intelligence with the humorous and even absurd to make a poetry that is entirely original. This is a powerful and welcome new voice to American poetry. — C. Dale Young, author of Prometeo

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Ross White

Ross White is the winner of the 2019 Sexton Prize, and author of three chapbooks. He is the director of Bull City Press, an independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the host of The Chapbook.

He teaches creative writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswhite.