The Discarded Life

A collection of moving and meditative poems that richly evoke a Gen X childhood in Los Angeles, exploring how our early recognitions shape our lives.

In these moving and meditative poems, Adam Kirsch shows how the experiences and recognitions of early life continue to shape us into adulthood. Richly evoking a 1980s childhood in Los Angeles, Kirsch uses Gen X landmarks—from Devo to Atari to the Challenger disaster—to tell a story of emotional and artistic coming of age, exploring universal questions of meaning, mortality, and how we become who we are.


‘“There is no I,” writes Adam Kirsch, “to be born or die.” His new collection takes the stuff of selfhood—memories, longings, disappointments—and gives them “a decent burial in words.” It is an autobiography, a farewell, and a reckoning, best illuminated by his own culminating image of a bonfire—or, perhaps, a funeral pyre—incinerating the fond vestiges of childhood and adolescence. Each act of disposal is an act of composition, and in these poems, Kirsch composes the years of his life into treasures.”
—Amit Majmudar, author of What He Did in Solitary

“Out of memory’s dreamlike whoosh, Adam Kirsch fixes scenes of his Californian boyhood in flowing blank verse, holding each cameo up to the light then setting it back down with “the reckless joy of getting rid.” Most moving are the child’s deep misgivings about a world he can only begin to know in fits and starts, the unnerving self-doubt that resolves itself into poetry. This is an artist’s coming-of-age for the ages. It took my breath away.”
—David Yezzi, author of Black Sea

Image of a sunset in los angeles, lined with palm trees

Adam Kirsch

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$13.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 9781636280158



LARB Reviews Adam Kirsch’s THE DISCARDED LIFE!

ADAM KIRSCH’S FOURTH BOOK of poetry, The Discarded Life, is an autobiography in blank verse, organized into 40 numbered parts, like cantos, each averaging a comfortable 26 or 27 lines, […]