The Insomniac Circus, Amorak Huey

The Insomniac Circus, Amorak Huey

Shave head, crown teeth,
if body is temple, spare no expense. Bumper sticker:

He who dies with the biggest pecs wins.
What is the point of pretending you never fall in love?

Of claiming there is no weight you cannot bear?
Destroy what you have. Hope it grows back stronger.

-- excerpt from The Strongman Goes Weak in the Knees, from The Insomniac Circus

The Insomniac Circus
by Amorak Huey

About the Amorak Huey

Amorak Huey, a longtime newspaper editor and reporter, teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poetry appears in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry 2012 and The Poetry of Sex, as well as journals including The Southern Review, Menacing Hedge, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, The Collagist, and many others. His website is, and you can follow him on Twitter: @amorak.

Praise for The Insomniac Circus

Step right up to Amorak Huey's Insomniac Circus and be amazed by these show-biz vagabonds and restless freaks who, tequila-bleary and sleep-deprived, work their minor miracles for strangers while "the slur & smear / of things I'd prefer to forget" simmers just behind their wary eyes. These poems might sound like knee-slappers: "The Tight Rope Walker Gets High," "The Fire-Eater Gets All Hot and Bothered," but they're as serious as a phone call in the middle of the night, brimming with the ultimate desire that fuels us all, that "thirst I still cannot name." Huey's memorable characters weave a three-ring spell around us, and we are happy to buy our ticket and take our seats inside his tent of wonders, where so many full hearts dangle from silk thread, wondering if the net below will hold.

— Erin Keane, author of Death-Defying Acts and Demolition of the Promised Land

Amorak Huey’s The Insomniac Circus strips the make-up from the clowns, the taming from the lions. These poems provide us with an exhilarating and dangerous landscape through which we are allowed to walk, bleary-eyed, and led by the sort of ringmaster in whose voice “we believe because we like the sound of it.” This is the sort of circus that serves as an essential microcosm of our lives, our beautiful, strange contortionist hearts. With an infectious energy, sobering eye, and, sometimes, disarming sense of humor, Huey’s poems expertly interrogate the bemused apathy we’re often forced to adopt in the face of our own fanfare—both beautiful and horrible; interrogate the vulnerability at the center of performance. “Having fun may be the closest we get to flying / but it’s foolish to pretend nothing isn’t out there,” Huey writes, and later, “trouble looks better from inside a rainbow jumpsuit.” This is the real, and hard-edged origin story of the circus, and of our many circuses, and, in Huey’s wild-eyed, somnambulant hands, we lucky readers navigate it, toe-to-heel, toe-to-heel, net-less, our breaths held, our hands wonderfully confused as whether to turn the page, or keep applauding.

-- Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost and The Morrow Plots

Amorak Huey is a devoted and subtle storyteller. In Huey’s world, everyday life is examined through a circus filter. His daredevil poems sing with a revealing concrete honesty while also evoking an otherworldly elegance. Huey’s poems dabble in deep play while the incredible poem titles give clues to the luminous details of the lives of people we might otherwise turn from. With his wit and piercing intelligence, Huey unfolds a series of portraits of exquisitely flawed and yet captivating individuals; each poem shines with humor, heartbreaking pathos, and strange beauty.

-- Kelly Boyker, author of Zoonosis and editor of Menacing Hedge