|William Reichard's fourth collection takes its title from a funeral rite practiced in England and Scotland and surviving into the twentieth century in Wales. The ritual was usually performed by a beggar, who would pray over the deceased while consuming a meal prepared by the family. These acts absolved the dead. All sin departed the body and transferred to the "sin eater," whose own soul was, thereafter, irrevocably damned.
Sin Eater is the shadow companion to This Brightness. William Reichard noticed as he was exploring the multiple literal and metaphorical permutations of light for This Brightness that a shadowy afterimage came into his mind.
Reichard's poems seem to throw off photographic double images -- one positive, the other negative. Every love poem has aspects of hate, every war poem holds in its core the seed of peace. The overriding theme of Sin Eater is one of creating balance in our lives between public brightness and private shadow.
FINALIST, MINNESOTA BOOK AWARD IN POETRY
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"Exquisitely tuned and deeply felt, William Reichard's Sin Eater cambers gracefully. From a gorgeous everydayness ('The curve of a crimson birch as it bends in the wind'), to desire for a seemingly ungraspable holiness ('It's in the sky, the desperate divination of clouds'), and reality expanded and woven with the metaphysical and erotic ('Having lost his spirit, given away / his flesh, what is left? Sometimes, / another man lives inside his body'), the poems are deftly contoured by 'the things that console us,' the 'little lights / in the darkness, a map of stars / bright as god, blinding.' The swelling heart of these poems is musical and haunting: Love and loss, family, doubt and faith, childhood pain and regret. Sin Eater is a magnificent book. It will have you stretching your 'hungry lips up to kiss / the drowsy old face of God.'" -- Alex Lemon, author of Happy: A Memoir and Fancy Beasts
"William Reichard's Sin Eater prepares for us a feast of words, lays it lovingly around the body of beliefs inhabitants of a contemporary world must mourn, and invites us to partake. Master of the terrifying understatement, Reichard gives us poems that walk us calmly toward the empty shell and demonstrate the utter pointlessness of imagining that paradise is anywhere but in the smallest details of the here and now." -- Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of The Resurrection Trade
"The poems in Sin Eater often have at their center a disarming modesty. Their narrator may be standing at a kitchen sink doing dishes or sitting on a tiny patio listening to the neighbors on their stoops. But somehow the neighborhood becomes the world and the quietness becomes a protected space which makes room for the mystery and longing at the heart of these poems. William Reichard's poems begin by charming their readers and end by compelling them: it's an enchantment that makes Sin Eater a wonderful book." -- Jim Moore, author of Lightning at Dinner
"This 'red, still-beating gift,' Sin Eater by William Reichard, is neither his heart, nor his treatise on the soul, but something else entirely. If I were pressed, I would say it is a certainty, the edges of which he feels, and the whole of which, unbroken, he makes motion to convey. A certainty of what? It is a spirit that, as he says, travels by your side, by turns good and evil, the bad 'worn thin as bird's bones, the good so filled with all they cannot say that they threaten to burst at the first gentle gesture a human hand might make.'" -- Jesse Ball, author of The Way Through Doors