Open Reading Period Selection


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ISBN: 978-1-62557-021-5
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Ways to Beg

Publication Date: May 2021


The poems in Ways to Beg are in constant conversation. They speak to and of each other, to ancestors, gods, pets, strangers on planes, and, most often, directly to the reader. Their aim is mutual inquiry. They want to swap stories and jokes and secrets, to stay up all night, refilling your beverage of choice, diligently pursuing the unsaid, the unsayable. In short, they want to ask the right questions. To deliberate how we’ve come to inhabit our bodies, our families, our grief, our country, our planet—and how we intend to make good on that lonesome and curious responsibility.


T.J. Sandella’s poems have compassion, humor, grace, and range. He writes about himself and others, about music and sex and trees and Houdini, and death, of course, else how would we recognize him as a poet? But what moves most deeply across and within these poems is an engaging mixture of curiosity and conscience, a need to discover various kinds of truth, whether ethical or aspirational. In poems that “keep bending/into questions,” he moves graciously across what he sees, what he has done and what he has imagined doing or becoming. One poem asks, “How long/until we become what we’ve always wanted to be?” That none of the poems answer that question shouldn’t be held against Sandella. That all of them try is to his credit and our immense benefit.
—Bob Hicok, author of Hold

Ways to Beg risks the big questions. These poems ignite, they incinerate the straight line—the easy road to sweetness—to ask: What does it mean to be sanctified? In an avalanche of grit and tenderness, Sandella roils with heartbreaking humanity. He speaks in the voice of the working class, of salvation and truth as a wild act. This is a brave and beautiful book.
—Jan Beatty, author of The Body Wars

Ways to Beg aches as it gazes into the upended present with an unflinching eye, searching for a home. There’s loneliness here, and a belief in companionship and the power of another to both heal us and to open us. I love the way surprise leads us to the familiar and the familiar to surprise, and how the poet renders the ordinary and the tragic as equals. Woven together into a fugue, each poem builds moment by intimate moment. These poems begin in the noise and commotion of the world and travel toward quiet reflection after the loss of a mother. It is here that the work crescendos, the pain of grief reminding us to hold each moment and to make it, in no small way, sacred.

—Dorianne Laux, author of Only As the Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

About the Author

© Amanda Goodin Photography

TJ Sandella

T.J. Sandella is the author of Ways to Beg (Black Lawrence Press, 2021), which was a finalist or semi-finalist for several awards, including the Miller Williams Poetry Prize, the Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes, and the Crab Orchard First Book Award. Selected by Dorianne Laux for inclusion in the Best New Poets anthology, he is the recipient of an Elinor Benedict Prize for Poetry (selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil), a William Matthews Poetry Prize (selected by Billy Collins), two Academy of American Poets Prizes, and two pushcart prize nominations. Poems can be found in Poet Lore, New Ohio Review, Hotel Amerika, Poetry Northwest, The Chattahoochee Review, and The South Carolina Review, among others. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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