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ISBN: 978-1-62557-053-6
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Categories Poetry

Next Time You Come Home

Publication Date: September 2023


“An intimate and illuminating glimpse into a parent-child relationship.”


In Next Time You Come Home, Lisa Dordal distills one hundred eighty letters she received from her mother over a twelve-year period (1989-2001) into short, meditative entries that reflect upon motherhood, marriage, grief, the beauty of the natural world, same-sex relationships, and the passage of time, as well as on issues such as racism, sexism, and climate change. The entries—which are something between letters and poems—portray a mother who, despite her alcoholism, maintains an engaged and compassionate presence in the world, one nourished by intellectual curiosity, life-long relationships with family and friends, and active involvement in a religious community.


A newly recovered trove of letters is the source material for Next Time You Come Home, but the collection’s true genius lies in the communion of mother and daughter across time. In distilling her late mother’s letters to their loving essence, Lisa Dordal focuses not on the “nighttime mother” who drank until her speech was slurred but on the vibrant, nurturing “daytime mother” who taught her how to love the world. This is a radical compassion that heals, offering understanding without excuses or justifications, love without benchmarks or conditions. From its haunting title onward, Next Time You Come Home is an utter original.

–Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

In the tradition of the epistle, this wonderful collection of letters turned into poems transports readers back in time. Inside we find reports from Lisa Dordal’s mother on the gorgeously mundane moments of life: shopping at Sears, trying out new shoes, planning dinner. These blessings of the everyday sit beside larger more worldly events all the while marvelously punctuated by the comings and goings of various birds and the cold and warm days of the seasons. Chickadees and sandhill cranes appear within the same lines of letters announcing a loved one’s death. And such is life, isn’t it? These small, brilliant moments? How fortunate to be able to bear witness to the daily joys and sorrows that could otherwise be long forgotten. These transformative poems leave me even more in awe of each of our precious, fleeting, singular lives.

– Didi Jackson, author of Moon Jar

In Next Time You Come Home, Lisa Dordal exquisitely sculpts her rediscovered letters from her mother into what she describes as “something between letters and poems—not fully letters and not fully poems, but, instead, their own thing.” The result is a book that captures the ways excision, distillation, rewriting and reshaping play crucial roles in how we might remember and make sense of the lives that shape our own. The quotidian details that Dordal leaves on the page—requests for soup recipes, reports of bird sightings, seasonal shifts—accrue new poignancy as Next Time You Come Home moves with a sneaky momentum through months, then years, then decades. What remains on the page feels like a new and ghostly dialogue between the writer, her mother, and the reader, too—a conversation that is both courageous and illuminating.

– Lee Conell, author of The Party Upstairs

About the Author

Lisa Dordal

Lisa Dordal holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Fine Arts (in poetry), both from Vanderbilt University, and teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt. She is the author of Mosaic of the Dark, which was a finalist for the 2019 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry, Water Lessons (April 2022), and Next Time You Come Home (forthcoming 2023), all from Black Lawrence Press. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Robert Watson Poetry Prize, and the Betty Gabehart Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in The Sun, Narrative, Image, The New Ohio Review, Best New Poets, Greensboro Review, RHINO, Ninth Letter, and CALYX. Her website is lisadordal.com.

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