A vivid and inspiring poetry collection about what’s possible when we heed our instincts and honor our intuition, allowing ourselves to strike out for new territories of love, pleasure, and peace.
First, you must realize you’re homesick for all the lives you’re not living. Then, you must commit to the road and the rising loneliness. To the sincere thrill of coming apart.
So begins Joy Sullivan’s Instructions for Traveling West—a lush debut collection that examines what happens when we leave home and leap into the deep unknown. Mid-pandemic, Sullivan left the man she planned to marry, sold her house, quit her corporate job, and drove west. This dazzling collection tells that story as it illuminates the questions haunting us all: What possible futures lie on the horizon? What happens when we heed the call of furious reinvention?
A book for anyone flinging themselves into fresh starts, Instructions for Traveling West grapples with loss, loneliness and belonging. These poems teach us that naming our desire is profound alchemy. Each of us holds the power to set our own course forward.
Expansive and heart-opening—exquisite in their specificity, galvanizing in their scope—the poems in Instructions for Traveling West speak to the longing that lives within us all. They remind us that “joy is not a trick.”
Joy Sullivan received an MA in poetry from Miami University and has served as the poet-in-residence for the Wexner Center for the Arts. She has guest-lectured in classrooms from Stanford University to Florida International University and is the founder of Sustenance, a community designed to help writers revitalize and nourish their craft. Read her thoughts on the creative life in her Substack newsletter, Necessary Salt.
“This empathetic, honest, and intimate collection is chockful of poems reminding the reader to love earnestly, live freely, and pay attention.”—Kate Baer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of And Yet and What Kind of Woman
“Here, we see a woman feeding herself—light, bread, joy. This book is going to be a beloved companion by so many readers.”—Maggie Smith, New York Times bestselling author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful
“What a thrilling voice! Joy Sullivan’s poetry is vast and yet familiar—and more remarkably, full of images and recollections that might have been mine, or yours. Her poems offer respite for both weary travelers and those of us who still feel fresh and bright-eyed, making this book a wonderful comfort.”—Elise Loehnen New York Times bestselling author of On Our Best Behavior
“Instructions for Traveling West
is remarkable for how it captures this moment, the essence of this weird middle time—and for how thrilling it is to read someone who is noticing, who is saying despite every terrible thing, ‘This place is great, I want to be here, what a thing to be alive.’ Joy Sullivan will make you want to live the way that Mary Oliver makes you want to live. You read this to remember.”—Holly Whitaker, New York Times bestselling author of Quit Like a Woman
“A blistering, tender reflection on desire and delight that will soak right into your skin.”—Lyndsay Rush, Mary Oliver’s Drunk Cousin on Instagram