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Kelli Anne Noftle

Kelli Anne Noftle's first collection of poems, I Was There for Your Somniloquy, was selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout for the 2010 Omnidawn Book Prize. Her work has appeared in several literary journals including Colorado Review, The Journal, VERSE, Blackbird, Cream City Review, Conduit, and Harvard Summer Review among others.


"These poems are nimble, daring, and convincing. Get ready, if you can, for the things they will convince you of!"

– Rae Armantrout

"These wise yet disarming poems remind us -- all of us, not just poets -- that what we hope to speak is often precisely what we have left to dream."

– David St. John



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I Was There for Your Somniloquy

A Transition Between the Brain and the Heart


As a graphic designer aesthetics are paramount. I’ve never been afraid to admit that a good cover can make me pick up a book I wouldn’t otherwise, or that a bad cover may cause me to discount a book. Similarly, I have checked out bands solely because of their name. Sometimes these things work out, sometimes they don’t. Recently I was perusing the Small Press Distribution website to pick up a specific book when I saw the cover of Kelli Anne Noftle’s I Was There for Your Somniloquy. It’s a gorgeous cover, I admired it and moved on. But that cover stuck with me. I thought about it the way some people think about cars, or women, or desserts. I wanted it.

Maybe a week later I was on the SPD site again and decided to take a crack at Noftle’s collection. I’m always on the lookout for new poetry to fall in love with, but these instances have been growing fewer and farther between one another. When the book arrived I read it late at night, as I often do with poetry collections. I like to read them cover-to-cover, immersing myself. Noftle rewarded this compulsion by drawing me in with beautiful, delicate words that surprised me at one instance and comforted me at the next.

Noftle has described the collection as being influenced by her fascination with “hypnagogia,” the transition between sleep and wakefulness, and it is a realm which her poetry inhabits seamlessly. Dreamy, yet aware, like the act of talking in one’s sleep.

Sleep with me.
I have a rusted mouth the color

of Virginia’s dirt…

Seamlessly, Noftle moves within these image contrasts, from dream state to visceral, yet tinges of the surreal act as a bridge.

How does it go in the fairytale? Someone’s been licking
the linoleum. Someone sliced a bar of soap
and polished it off with your wine.

There are clues.

And there are clues, throughout the poems that inhabit I Was There for Your Somniloquy. Clues about sleep:

Somnologists conduct a study on sleeping felines that                         enact
their dreams. They dance with their shadows, paw at the                      wall:
this science of their bodies takes on dual meanings.

Clues about sea slugs:

Learning the difference takes so long. Of being demeaned                 or being
taught to navigate the seafloor.

Clues about love:

I’ve heard true love will convince you, the way varnish                        makes a
painting more believable.

Noftle is not afraid to weave science, factoids, within the structure of her lines. There are moments in her poetry where I find myself wanting to go back and not flunk biology. But I know myself, I know it is not the facts that will stick with me whenever I close her book, it is the depth of feeling with which she has taken these moments where some might sense learning and turned them into feelings instead of lessons.

In her fascination for the transition between sleeping and waking, Noftle has created a series of odes to a transition between the brain and the heart. It is the transition all poetry is truly reaching for. And by the end of Noftle’s debut collection you will know it is attainable.

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