Early Praise for Binary Stars

In her debut collection Binary Stars, Dana Koster bravely scouts the fierce, alien, and surprisingly dangerous landscapes of family life and relationships. From the epigraph, “The Moon Smells Like Burnt Gunpowder,” we are situated in alien territory where even “the molecules . . . [are] all wrong.” From this sense of displacement, Koster writes—with spare and tender language—of the wild, fairy tale nature of the domestic everyday, where a father resembles a werewolf, where mothers perceive their infants as parasitic grotesques. In this extraordinary first book, lovers, mothers, children, and siblings are inextricably linked to one another—and just like binary stars, they threaten to destroy each other, as well. Koster’s dark humor becomes the dark matter imbuing her poetic cosmos, which “fills/the gaps/in the night/with seeming.”; dark matter is the medium by which ghosts, living and not, haunt this collection.

—Stella Beratlis, author of Alkali Sink

Dana Koster’s Binary Stars reminds us that we don’t journey in a straight line through life: we revolve, through day and night, through season, and most importantly, through our human relationships. Her sharp, funny, dark poems chart long orbits, and to move with them—from the mousewife to motherhood to earwigs to dark matter—is to travel from illumination to illumination.

—Maria Hummel, author of House and Fire and Motherland

We need a new word (astro-tropism?) for the poetry of Binary Stars. For the way it leaps into stellar depths to cast a gaze sharp as a hummingbird’s beak back on the extended family cluster. Two stars, a larger and a smaller, in tight rotation, yield binary poems in clumps and couplets in the first-person dual and second-person singular: to the baby, the husband (with orbiting cows, horses, and almonds), the burned-out but still gravitational father-in-law and mother, and the therapist, whose analytical gaze is returned with equal intensity. Koster has written a domestic poetry not “of the heart,” not soft-focused, but of the barycenter, the binary center of gravity, in which the familiar, thrown off kilter, becomes alienated, estranged, and new. Dare you read a poetry at the white heat? Then open Binary Stars, an incandescent book of the first magnitude.

—John Shoptaw, author of Times Beach