Preserve

Claire Wahmanholm

The forest is long and songless.All the animal calls have been cutdown. They lie in stacks along the path:songbird bindle, parcel of fox throats,packet of bobcat hollers. I try to recall thembut they won't come. My own callsare hollow and numb in my neck,and what would come to that kind of call?The forest is tall and all the trees humwith some new hum I can't name.It pins me through the lungs. The air ambersaround my arms as I swing them.I am trying to imagine the bird will re-spool,the fox re-fur and return, panting, to my hands.But I am already a specimen. Cotton puffsfrom my ears like pinfeathers. In my chest,a tingling like my lungs are falling asleep.Whatever was deep in me is rising to the surface,pressing its face against my unblinking eyes.

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Claire Wahmanholm is the author of Night Vision (New Michigan Press 2017), Wilder (Milkweed Editions 2018), and Redmouth (Tinderbox Editions 2019). Her poems have most recently appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Copper Nickel, New Poetry from the Midwest 2019, Beloit Poetry Journal, Grist, RHINO, 32 Poems, West Branch, The Southeast Review, The Los Angeles Review, Memorious, Bennington Review, and DIAGRAM. A 2020-2021 McKnight Fellow, she lives and teaches in the Twin Cities.

Find her online at clairewahmanholm.com

"Claire Wahmanholm’s book, Redmouth, is grief-stricken. But how does the poet make grief so beautiful? Who knew the language of grief could be stricken itself with the language of beauty? Here the deer have disappeared but when the speaker closes her eyes, she 'can see them/licking the coats of their fawns, anchoring/their spots to their fur to their bodies to the forest floor.' There’s simply no doubt that Wahmanholm is a poet because language is the center of all of her work, whether it is describing a decayed world where 'mountains have unraveled into sand' to the stripping away and lifting out of language in the equally stunning erasures sprinkled throughout this book. Yes, darkness razors across these poems, but what comes out of the experience of reading is beauty. I don’t know many poets today who can write such beauty into such devastation: 'The children’s hair lies dewy on the hillocks of their heads/until shreds like cornsilk come off in the breeze.' Gorgeously rendered, devastatingly stunning."
—Victoria Chang

"Claire Wahmanholm’s Redmouth is singing. In these poems, Wahmanholm again and again proves that music intensifies not only emotions, but also ideas: 'I carried a groan in my throat. Mostly it sat silent, but at night / I untethered it note by note. It pillared above me in the dark, / curling into the shape of a dog, a horse, a goat. It made a moat around me.' This is a poetry of the greatest skill; this is a book that could make a person who had never cared for poetry before want to write it."
—Shane McCrae

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