Rebecca Dunham is the author of two previous books of poetry, The Miniature Room and The Flight Cage. She was the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Fellow in Poetry at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She is a professor in the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The eighteenth-century glass armonica, a musical instrument whose sound emits from rotating, water-filled vessels, has long held the power to mesmerize with its hauntingly sorrowful tones. Just as its song—which was once thought to induce insanity—wraps itself in and around the mind, Rebecca Dunham probes the depths of human psyche, inhabiting the voices of historical female “hysterics” and inciting in readers a tranquil unease.
These are poems spoken through and for the melancholic, the hysteric, the body dysmorphic—from Mary Glover to Lavinia Dickinson to Freud’s famed patient Dora. And like expert hands placed gently on the armonica’s rotating disks, Dunham offers unsettling depictions of uninvited human contact—of hands laid upon the female body, of touch at times unwanted, and ultimately unspeakable from behind the hysteric’s “locked jaws.” Winner of the 2013 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, Dunham’s stunning third collection is “lush yet septic” (G.C. Waldrep), at once beautiful and unnerving.
"Reading Rebecca Dunham’s Glass Armonica is akin to discovering the sharpness of bone shard or shrapnel risen just beneath the surface of one’s skin: the odd advent of injury’s return despite the appearance of a wound thought long-healed. Face the holy and its unholy. Face the Error. Witness the pairing of Mystery and Woe, the equation of their shared vertigo. I’m pleased to report that every poem in this collection is wired to shatter its own lens on demand."