Winner of the 2020 Permafrost Prize
After moving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, poet Sara Ryan found herself immersed in the isolated spaces of the North: the cold places that never thawed, the animals that stayed hidden and hunted. As she struggled with loneliness, cruelty, and the bleak romantic expanses of the UP, she saw her own body reflected in the bodies of animals. These poems have teeth and bones and blood—they interrogate self-preservation, familial history, extinction, taxidermy, and a fascination with animal and female bodies.
Grief, death, loss, recovery, and rebirth dwell in the soft spaces of this book. The poems are a skeleton, strong and unflinching. They clack and bruise and make loud sounds. But in between the lines, in the warm places where the blood hides, that is where the animals dwell, where the wolves come out of the woods and run across the frozen surface of Lake Superior. Ryan writes about the animal body because it is the body she can control. She navigates the deaths of animals, the knives and guns that kill them, the preservation of their skins; she sees her own body in the animal—in that wolf, that horse, that crow. She sees her body in the animal that is preyed upon. The animal presence in this book leads to a discourse with the female body that is urgent and necessary. This collection of poems is about terrible and beautiful things; pain and what lies beyond it.