The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

Notes on the End of the World

Publication Date: September 2016


Winner of the Spring 2015 Black River Chapbook Competition

Notes on the End of the World is a quiet apocalypse. You won’t find huge explosions or sudden extinctions in Meghan Privitello’s poems. Here, the days are marked instead by quiet disappearances, abandoned objects, details that might be otherwise overlooked. Objects double as warning signs: “The asbestos siding is a hologram in the leftover sun. / At once, it is a dollhouse made of bones.” Animals speak in prophetic visions: “In the dead cells of her skin, / I have found your family. / There is an outline of a great tree. / They are all there-roped / around their necks, hanging.”

These poems hold a microscope to life’s mundane details, but they are also poems of agency-when the apocalypse comes, what use is a “good life?” When the apocalypse comes, Privitello asks us to be honest, unflinching. With each passing day, Notes on the End of the World gets louder and quieter, lonelier and lovelier. The end of the world does not look so different from an ordinary day, so pay attention. In the end, Privitello’s poems leave room for regret and the hope of redemption-but not much.


It is no dream to live in a house
with blown out windows and molting snakes.

Any child’s drawing would tell you so:
the driveway, the garden, the smoking chimney.

I sleep with a pistol between my legs so often
that any man would be a soft nuisance.

This quiet is the quiet of watching a living thing
die, when you hit yourself for having believed the heart
could ever resemble a red bird.

I would give up all of my memories of trains
if one passed through the foothills as I watched.

All to say, there is enough emptiness to be buried
wherever the weathervane stops.
There is enough emptiness to feel holy.

At night, the wind upsets the shutters, the shingles.
And although I knew a bucket of morphine
and a glass of scotch would kill it,
I killed it.


There is no lack of beauty and strangeness in Meghan Privitello’s Notes on the End of the World, uncovering museums of dust, shadows, animals, ghosts-the Days of this book are filled with lush vocabulary and witchy diction. I feel totally awake and mystical in their presence.

-Bianca Stone, author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows

You were mistaken when you thought you were picking up a book of poems & not a new strange knife. In Notes on the End of the World, Meghan Privitello preserves & perverts & exploits a landscape where time is most pronounced by its breakages & bizarreness. This collection of post-pastoral, post-apocalyptic, post-romantic poems scream & salve & sour, all at once. The days accrue like rust on an old lover’s teeth. At once deeply unsettling & recentering, this collection pleasures & unpleasures, it places the blade in your hand & begs you to slice open an apple or plunge it into your own heart.

-sam sax, author of All the Rage, sad boy / detective, and A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters

Amanda Nadelberg, Vasko Popa, and David Lynch had a poetry baby. It is Meghan Privitello. CD Wright is this baby’s lyric godmother. It is astonishing how one poet can be so tender while being so endlessly able to make abjection and death-the triumph of the human spirit is so clearly off the table-into art. This voice sings a contemporary and frightening love song about obliteration, self and otherwise.

-Cynthia Arrieu-King, author of Manifest and, with Hillary Gravendyk, Unlikely Conditions

About the Author

Meghan Privitello

Meghan Privitello is the author of A New Language for Falling Out of Love (YesYes Books, 2015). Poems have appeared in Gulf CoastKenyon Review OnlineBoston ReviewA Public SpacePlease Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2014 NJ State Council of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. Her chapbook, Notes on the End of the World, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016.

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