In Update on the Descent, Ellen Hinsey draws on personal experience and family tragedy to forge a masterful meditation on the extremes of the human condition. A poet who situates herself in a landscape steeped in the tragic history and artistic splendor of Europe, Hinsey suffuses her work with the urgency of historical memory. Alternating lyrics, aphorism, anti-lyrics, and philosophical notebooks, she explores the nature of terror, war, tyranny, and violence as well as reconciliation and renewal of the human spirit. Called by Carolyn Forche, "A true poet, whose sense of line, cadence, and tonality is unsurpassed among poets of her generation," Hinsey brilliantly contributes to the tradition of poetry as a witness to history.
"Ellen Hinsey has manifested a range of concern and a sensitivity to larger human issues which is the sine qua non of authentic poetry. She has found a way to be both truthful and original, to make poems which are absorbing and enlightening, historically pertinent and philosophically urgent. . . . To our great good fortune they succeed in their unlikely ambitions." --C. K. Williams
"With this book, Ellen Hinsey confirms her status as one of the most profound and intense poets of her generation. Update on the Descent is arranged in an extremely sophisticated pattern, alternating Dantean visions, contemporary accounts of torture, and thoughts on our human condition which crystallize into formulae possessing all the depth and darkness of Heraclitus. It has the touch of strangeness indispensable for any great poetry, but its moral message is straightforward and full of inner force." --Tomas Venclova, author of Winter Dialogue and The Junction: Selected Poems
"In this meditation on the vita activa, Hinsey journeys poetically and philosophically through the ruins of what it means to be human in the twenty-first century. Human nature is this lyric art's first-person, and its utterance is protean. Throughout we hear the cris de coeur of our time, from a scaffold of collective memory artfully constructed by one of our most compelling poets. Hinsey's sense of line, cadence, and tonality is remarkable, and she deserves a serious and attentive readership in this country." --Carolyn Forche