Skip to content
CLMP Publishers Literature & Fiction - Poetry

$18.95 Regular price
Unit price

Scale Model of a Country at Dawn

ISBN: 9781930781603
Binding: Paperback
Author: John Sibley Williams
Pages: 100
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 01/01/2022

With an impressive mastery of sound matched only by his alchemical imagery, Williams guides readers along mythic highways, above oceans, and towards the reimagining of a bridge no one remembers. To conjure is a recurring theme in this impressive collection—as if language holds the power to reconfigure a past, a mother, a child. And perhaps it can. Williams' words are that convincing. Recasting home as conch shell, as ghost house, and as fire, we learn that we are held together by the tensile strength of our own narrative. I've circled and underlined lines on nearly every poem in Scale Model of a Country at Dawn. This is a book you'll want to read, and then turn to the first poem to enter again. Even if no one is safe from the wolves in our hearts, John Sibley Williams helps us live within these contradictions. —Susan Rich

In Scale Model of a Country at Dawn, John Sibley Williams illuminates a world that while filled with tragedy and ruin is likewise blooming with life and celebration. Here, we navigate the "new constellations" and "vanquished sky" after a friend's suicide; we contemplate the absence of earth and wonder if it can be "filled with prayers" again; and in between the oncology ward and the wildfires raging in Northern California, we see the quiet moments worth spending time with: a father witnessing his children coming into their own, a house in need of repair but still providing shelter, and the plethora of American landscapes where Williams' speakers have a chance to reflect and be themselves. Although in the course of this collection we may come to realize that there are "far fewer gods" than we thought before, Williams' poems are a gift that offer us something to believe in again and again.—Esteban Rodriguez


John Sibley Williams is the author of Scale Model of a Country at Dawn (Cider Press Review Book Award, 2021), The Drowning House (Elixir Press Poetry Award, 2021), As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), skycrape (WaterSedge Poetry Chapbook Contest), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. His book Sky Burial: New & Selected Poems is forthcoming in translated form by the Portuguese press do lado esquerdo. He has also served as editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies, Alive at the Center (Ooligan Press, 2013) and Motionless from the Iron Bridge (barebones books, 2013).

A thirty-five-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Laux/Millar Prize, Wabash Prize, Philip Booth Award, Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. Previous publishing credits include: Best American Poetry, Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, Colorado Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies.

John holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rivier University and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University. He is the founder and head teacher of Caesura Poetry Workshop, a virtual workshop series, and serves as co-founder and editor of The Inflectionist Review. He also works as a poetry editor and book coach. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his partner and boisterous young twins, Kaiya and Addy.


"In Williams' poems there is also something larger and more fundamental afoot—namely a sense of betrayal of the American dream. In poem after poem the very foundations of life in America are eroding. Taken as a whole, Scale Model is less an elegy or jeremiad, than a fulsome cri de coeur, a passionate, secular prayer for honesty and communal redemption.The book's eponymous poem begins with an epigraph defining a Hobson's choice, the decision to accept or refuse the one thing offered. Time offers the quintessential Hobson's choice: move forward or not at all. The only possible way to return to the past is through memory, a model of dubious verisimilitude by virtue of limited perspective and emotional refraction. It is important to note the time chosen for regarding this model of the past, since dawn implies the rebirth of hope, perhaps even joy, as the world of light, color, and clarity returns following a period of darkness." - Linda Scheller

"Reading the poems in John Sibley Williams' prophetic new book, Scale Model of a Country at Dawn, I kept envisioning Goya's famously austere painting, 'El Perro Semihundido,' which hangs in the Prado. That painting shows the head of a lone submerged dog with eyes looking upward, overwhelmed, almost subsumed by an ominous umbral mass below (perhaps a torrent of murky floodwater or the dismal edge of a ravine or dune). The distant grimy sky offers neither comfort nor answer to the dog's desperate plight. Nature itself seems set against him. Yet still the beast refuses to succumb, continuing to struggle and, perhaps, to hope for salvation. Williams' poems recount ecological disaster, persistent conflagrations, physical and mental decline, addiction, death, familial dissolution and loss, and relentless communal decay in the Pacific Northwest, as well as fatherly adoration, protection, and resilience. Although the settings are different, Goya's painting and Williams' poems share a sense of existential abandonment and powerlessness, but also courage and dogged persistence in the face of tumult. Though dire, neither is delirious or melodramatic. Instead, both dare to distill the stark dilemma of living in their times. They are truth-tellers, spurning delusion and distraction in favor of stern, lyrical disclosure. " - Ralph Hamilton

"Scale Model of a Country at Dawn is the winner of the 2020 Cider Press Book Award and the sixth collection by John Sibley Williams, a decorated poet whose work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Best American. And no wonder. These are beautifully crafted poems, stunning in their use of imagery and devastating in their truths. Page by page, Sibley's newest poems are as carefully strung together as prayer beads, and it is possible to read them the same way one fingers, say, one's rosary. Grounded by running our hands along the familiar, we are left to concentrate on what we are praying to or for. We are immersed in the transcendent power of poetry. Stanley Kunitz once said, 'The deepest thing I know is that I am living and dying at once, and my conviction is to report that dialogue.' Williams, too, reports 'that dialogue' throughout this collection that explores both profound loss and the equally inescapable beauty of the world." - Carla Panciera

"Winner of the 2020 Cider Press Review Book Award, John Sibley Williams' Scale Model of a Country at Dawn was published by Cider Press in January this year. It is a collection of poems that sing and roil in their transformations. They plunge us into immediate tensions, an anticipation of movement as say in the first line of a poem like 'Winter Bazaar,' which begins, 'Not-yet broken crockery.' Or the poem 'Larynx' begins 'All this hum must come from somewhere.' It's the poetic equivalent of beginning in medias res. And such movement and tension are carried unbroken through poem after poem by a beautiful osculation of musical nuance and verb choice. The collection explores the difficult and likely impossible effort of establishing heaven on earth. What more would a parent want for their child than a world that is safe and beautiful to live in? But all those enumerated flaws: the symptoms and silences and rages also infect our children. Every effort at a better world leaves a trail of discarded utopias or, as the poem 'We Carry Wildfires in Our Guts' says, 'one of many discarded / rough drafts of heaven.' Although, this does not imply the stance is fatalistic. The struggle is perpetual and itself the worthy pursuit." - Michael T. Young