University of Wisconsin Press colophon



University of Wisconsin Madison crest that links to main university site

Association of University Presses member logo that links to main AUPresses site



Catalog Archive / Spring 2024

The Story of Your Obstinate Survival

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval, Series Editors
Ronald Wallace, Founding Series Editor

“Like a new angel of history, The Story of Your Obstinate Survival arrives with its wings heavy with live fish and doorknobs, shovels and bone cake, faith and desire. Khalastchi has turned the poem into a long, beautiful wail, soft and brilliant enough for even Babel and Kafka and Singer to hear. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out Khalastchi feeds each poem by hand, and brushes nightly their wings. With as much abandon as with hope, these poems sway on the edge of a miracle.”
—Sabrina Orah Mark

If we are both left in standing / water how is all of this ablaze?

Daniel Khalastchi boldly strides across a landscape of smoldering fires, unmarked boxes, and pictures of senators in airplane bathrooms. Exhilarating and innovative, The Story of Your Obstinate Survival collapses genre and upends narrative convention with dazzling wordplay and thrilling imagery. Inhabiting a world trapped somewhere between dreams and reality, these poems fuse the political and personal, public and private, pleasing and piquant, to examine both calamities and the dogged persistence required to endure. On display throughout is Khalastchi’s exceptional capacity for detail and specificity, filling up this world to the point of breaking but never beyond, insisting on survival despite it all.

Crowds around the circus serve as means of an escape,
a legislative party bus of palliative care. There standing
by the advent tent are penitential dentures, striking in
their likeness to entire choking towns. Backed down
and bound the carnival carnivorous is glowing, a
midway ways away alit and stilted by the night.
—Excerpt from “Trying to I Can’t Hit Anything Yet the Bodies Pile Up”


Daniel Khalastchi. Photo credit, Barry Phipps. Daniel Khalastchi is an Iraqi Jewish American, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a former fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is the author of three previous books of poetry—Manoleria, Tradition, and American Parables—and lives in Iowa City, where he directs the University of Iowa’s Magid Center for Writing.

Daniel Khalastchi's Website -



“It’s The Story of Your Obstinate Survival, and mondegreen, malaprop, misremembering member these casted lines even as these lines cast a motley populace: holler at me wayward new Senator, honeymooners of the lusophone, mid friend, X-ray techs, and expecting pessimists. Expecting textual comic strips? Natch. Still catch the catastrophes beneath the cackling, between ill chimes and rhymes, the jinglejangle Daniel Khalastchi entangles in his syntax; he sets the lexical to play with itself roughly; sees the Locked-Downers stuffed in meat lockers; proffers ruefully to the newly born/newly gone: ‘there is no use trying/to stop the wreckage.’ Heck, all that glass and metal really sounds pretty.”
—Douglas Kearney

The Story of Your Obstinate Survival lays out an uneasy dreamscape of middle-class, middle-aged life at what can feel like the end of a world. The immediate stuff and facts of that life—the roof, medication, cars, relationships, real estate agents, the occasional wild animal—all threaten to come apart in ways that feel as familiar as they do unreal or impossible. Through these strange scenes, Khalastchi rides sonic associations, hopes, regrets, histories, revealing an intelligent figure trying to puzzle out what it means to go on and finding little moments of humor along the way. This is a moving, compelling collection, a vital documentation of a life in uncertain times.”
—Heather Christle

“When The Story of Your Obstinate Survival begins, the speaker—let’s say there’s just one speaker—of the poems has been dislocated from their body by an act perpetrated or instigated by a figure known only as the Senator, though it isn’t immediately apparent that the Senator is responsible. The rest of the book reads like the speaker’s attempt to sing their way back to oneness with their body, and though the attempt is colored by bewilderment, anger, and sorrow, it is as rich with music as any poetry being written today. The Story of Your Obstinate Survival is a triumph of song.”
—Shane McCrae

“Despite the personal and collective turmoil that stand back of Daniel Khalastchi’s The Story of Your Obstinate Survival, the writing from poem to poem, line to line, is animated by linguistic joy and an almost madcap surrealism and humor that somehow manage to confront without prettifying or flinching from the nightmare of history, even while showing us how to maintain emotional and spiritual poise at the darkest of times.”
—Alan Shapiro

“This genre-bending book overturns narrative conventions in pieces that question the line between public and private.”
Publishers Weekly Spring 2024 Adult Announcements

“Negotiating a promiscuously overlapping Venn diagram of dream, satire, and present-day reality, Daniel Khalastchi takes a primary driver of poetry, our boredom with conventional modes of expression, and applies it to the late-capitalist political and social upheavals whose bills we continually pay. . . . Khalastchi belies the instant clichés of modern American life through a sly style.”
Literary Hub



Download Cover: color | b/w

Download Author Photo: color | b/w

Request Review Copy

Request Exam Copy


Table of Contents


Representational Invention to Mask More Serious Emotional Concerns

Confounding Attempts to Explain the Mystery
Among Us a Stomach
As Yet
You Left Addressing Headlights Spent in Actual Trapeze
Dear ______: I Want to Be a Better Friend, I’m Sorry
We Must Be Solidly Indemnified
The Hysterical Likeness
Refrigerator Hum
Bitter and Bitten and There Is Nothing to See
In Tennessee You Tell Me We Are Approximately Seasonal
Girls Running in the Spring

Youth, and Other Misguided Diagnoses of a Failed Relationship
All of Me Is Elegy, a House Pronounced as Sold
Dead Tree in Stairwell
On Viewing a Sympathetic Nazi Perseverance Tableau
Faring Poorly in Water
Turndown Service
Dear ______: I Want to Be a Better Friend, I’m Sorry
Gutter and Brain
I Sleep the Sleep of Honeymooners
Keeping Peace in Portugal
Anything Could Be Back There
Our Pregnant Racial Obesity
Withering Frame
Thirteen Hundred Miles from Our Mortgage We Are Running
For You on Your Birthday

Variations on a Large Historical Oversight
A Body Book-Reviewed as Clinical, the Constituents Debate
Lava by Staircase
The Imminent Decline of Everything We’ve Understood to Be What Governs Our Privileged Daily Lives
Dear ______: I Want to Be a Better Friend, I’m Sorry
What Cheer
A Contagious Age
It’s Been Evening All Day Long
The Sea it Rises Steadily and Suddenly Arrives

Year-End Reconciliation Adjustment
Dear ______: I Want to Be a Better Friend, I’m Sorry
Oh, I Think About the Dead
We Ought Not Want to See This but Can’t Really Look Away
Because the Night
A Formidable Plan to Address the National Convention
Dance Party for the End of the World
An Inevitable Rescue
Trying to I Can’t Hit Anything Yet the Bodies Pile Up
Outside the House You Summarize
Relatively Direct Letter of Resignation
A Stain on All Our Houses
Postcard in Drawer

More Bad News



Of Related Interest

American Parables: Cover showing a cream background with the title text written in thick, multicolored font. The author text is written in curly font in the bottom right corner.

American Parables
Daniel Khalastchi

American Sex Tape: cover depicting a painting of a cartoon black woman with multiple irises within her eyes, and a third eye inbetween her eye brows. Her wavy-fingered hand is reaching toward the viewer. The title text is contained within a black box at the bottom of the page, the text cut out to reveal the image behind it.

American Sex TapeTM
Jameka Williams

The Story of Your Obstinate Survival: a cover depicting illustrated flames curving across the page. The title text is written in text with varied widths that weave in and out of the flames.

Larger images

March 2024
138 pp. 5.5 x 7.5

Book icon
Paper $16.95
ISBN 9780299348045
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
Review Cart