Wilder

Claire Wahmanholm. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-506-9
Wahmanholm moves lyrically through an apocalyptic disaster in her stunning and disquieting debut. She begins with two familiar gestures: opening with a definition of the word wilder and a poem that starts with an Auden epigraph. But that is where readers’ comfort likely ends, as Wahmanholm aims to surprise and disturb: “birds curdled the air,” she writes in “Advent,” while in “Bog Body,” torsos turn into “swamps we swam in.” The world of this work takes on unrecognizable dimensions, and its inhabitants are left to contend with this ruptured and indecipherable reality. A series of prose blocks mimic both children’s alphabet books and dispatches from a lost explorer. “Caught in this force we could not call by name, we waited. Down by the river, no more boats,” she writes in “Beginning,” which manages to read as simultaneously ancient and futuristic. A series of erasures evokes a destroyed landscape, the rubble of an edifice against a blank sky. By the end, readers will get the sense that a vast and irrevocable catastrophe has just occurred, with the world still unable to cope, much less rebuild: “From the dusty woodchips I pull a warm baby tooth and hold it against the red sky. It quivers.” Wahmanholm’s poems are studies in devastation and stark representations of the accompanying shock. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/15/2018
Release date: 11/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-57131-995-1
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