Still Life is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has been named a best book of the year by NPR and Time magazine. Longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award.

Confronted with a terminal cancer diagnosis, Jay Hopler—author of the National Book Award-finalist The Abridged History of Rainfall—got to work. The result of that labor is Still Life, a collection of poems that are heartbreaking, terrifying, and deeply, darkly hilarious. In an attempt to find meaning in a life ending right before his eyes, Hopler squares off against monsters real and imagined, personal and historical, and tries not to flinch. This work is no elegy; it’s a testament to courage, love, compassion, and the fierceness of the human heart. It’s a violently funny but playfully serious fulfillment of what Arseny Tarkovsky called the fundamental purpose of art: a way to prepare for death, be it far in the future or very near at hand.

Praise for Still Life

“A startling and darkly funny collection of sonnets, lyrics, epigrams and songs that produces a jolt of electric joy as the poet grapples with his end-of-life concerns and mortal fears.”
Citation of the Pulitzer Prize nomination

“Hopler gestures toward the poetic tradition in formal lyrics, offers a satirical self-obituary, and even includes a musical score. It all adds up to a sturdy ship of death and a transcendent love song to life and to his wife: ‘it was she that lit the world.’”
Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

“In the wake of a terminal cancer diagnosis, poet Jay Hopler pondered his own mortality with wit, searing insight, and a clear-eyed sense of courage in his third and final poetry collection […] The collection is a bittersweet triumph. Hopler confronts his fears—big and small, real and imagined—in a magnificent demonstration of the strength of the heart”
Cady Lang, Time

“People with advanced aggressive cancers automatically become authorities on mortality. Poets with such cancers have been dealt, at great cost, four aces. And for the wild ones, like Jay Hopler, cancer can be a field day. The bleak friskiness here is not new, nor is the swaggering rancor (like Berryman, who was also proud to be right in his dire predictions). What is new is gratitude: for the ‘atomic girl’ it is his extraordinary good fortune to meet and ultimately marry; for the opportunity of art, which lends to his passions’ duration. There is a difference, marked in these poems, between rage at the fact of mortality and rage at the diagnosis of its imminence. And the latter infuses Hopler’s extravagant jokes and glittering improvisations with the urgency and weight of last words.”
Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature

Still Life is astonishing, a collection that faces up to the injustice of untimely death and discovers—not insulated from despair and rage but arrived at somehow *through* them—an extraordinary, difficult, electric joy. No book I have read in years has moved me so deeply; no book has felt so full of life.”
Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You

Praise for Jay Hopler

“By these poems, your faith will be shattered and restored, restored and wondrously shattered again.”
Craig Morgan Teicher

“Hopler’s vision and voice, both painfully complex because of how much of the world he allows to attach to him, to stake its claim on him, teach us we are in the presence of lasting, inimitable poems. No one writes like Hopler. And no one ever will.”
Katie Ford