Morality Play by Lauren Hilger

Morality Play

Lauren Hilger

Possession Sound Poetry Series
Volume 2

July 2022
110 pp.

In Morality Play, Lauren Hilger forges a restless path between the impressionable folly of youth and the boundlessness of individual becoming. A motley bildungsroman of fierce imagination, Morality Play reveals, and revels in, the paradox inherent in its title, angling for a tender virtue in the sensuousness of words. “Raised on a fast pencil, a sound expiring,” Hilger reminds us that “From the world’s first cities, it was always a woman / telling the future.” Like a wild song fluent in, and flung against, awkward self-delusion and constrictive cultural norms, Morality Play offers a vision of womanhood as expansive as lucid dreaming, where all the “wrong words” become our “mother tongue.”

Praise for Morality Play

These poems let their wild vitality spill over—like the play of light over all the facets of a life, over all the ways a voice can clothe itself in logic and armor. Hilger reaches through that dazzle with a rare kind of shapeshifting intimacy, ‘a strip of magma from me to you.’
Laura Marris
Haunting. Innovative. Genius.
Tochukwu Okafor
Lauren Hilger’s Morality Play is a dance lesson in duality, when duality is multiplied, of what was, what is, real and imagined. A disquieting, reassuring look at how we see who we were, Hilger’s visions feel like past and future encouragement, an all-knowing theatre performance. I found myself unable to shake one of the opening lines, ‘I know how to live my life now.’ Because by the end of the book, I feel I do too.
Shauna Barbosa
Lauren Hilger has a knack for making the ordinary, uncanny; for making the ordinary sing. Morality Play is a collection of misreads, mistakes, and misunderstandings that are all so beautiful, so very familiar and so strange. In the poems, the speaker looks to the natural world to understand human nature—the collection’s raison d’être. As I read, I felt myself looking and being looked at. ‘She looked at me / aslant, as through branches and leaves / after that.’ It is a remarkable collection.
Kay Cosgrove
If morality concerns the distinction between right and wrong, then Lauren Hilger’s sophomore collection, Morality Play, is right, and righteous, in its astonishing beauty, its wondrous and delicate poetics. In the vibrant dazzle of the 2000s, Hilger names a cheer uniform a tangerine peel, licks a glass of lemonade for its condensate, recounts a past of denim skirts and spilt milk. Hilger is friendly with the ghosts of nostalgia and traces their paths from a misty translucence to true transparence. Time teaches us what it must. Hilger writes, ‘I know how to live my life now.’ And after spending time with Hilger’s collection, we will know to ‘love the breeze that messes up our hair.’
Kayleb Rae Candrilli
There are infinite ways to cut a stone, but for them to sparkle requires the precision of a lapidarist. This ability to cut through the distillation of experience is what shines in Lauren Hilger’s Morality Play. Her poems move with the dexterity of light refracting—stalking each facet of thought with a cutting rigor: ‘that’s the truth, that’s the car on which I was taught brakes.’ There is nothing that escapes the brutal glittering of Hilger’s gaze: Tamagotchi, bar brawls, the Madonna and child in art, misogyny, faith, fashion. In her utter refutation of simplicity, Hilger’s work illuminates what Oppen called ‘the pure joy / Of the mineral fact /Tho it is impenetrable.’ These poems will break apart what you thought solid, if you just let them; they promise, ‘I could be the tool you twirl in the hand that hammers away.’
Caroline Crew
‘It’s her, / my father says, / of his mother, / but to some extent it’s me, I’m the echo,’ writes Lauren Hilger in one of the many exquisite poems in Morality Play, and it’s impossible as a reader not to feel the same—drawn into the I of this book, looking outward on oneself. Mysterious and impressionistic, Hilger’s sublime lyric voice commands with a devastating intentionality. Her language transfixes us.
Chase Berggrun

About the Author

Lauren Hilger

Lauren Hilger is the author of Lady Be Good (CCM, 2016.) Named a Nadya Aisenberg Fellow in poetry from MacDowell, she has also received fellowships from the Hambidge Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has appeared in BOMB, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, The Threepenny Review, West Branch, and elsewhere. She serves as a poetry editor for No Tokens