NECK OF THE WOODS
Winner of the 2018 Alice James Books Prize coming April 2020
Amy Woolard’s Neck of the Woods is a book that abides between dark humor—‘Tornados need to slow their roll & keep their cones tight’—and the kind of disasters rendered so casually that they seem all the more terrifying—‘tremored like seeing a landscape while your elbows/Are hooked onto somebody from the back.’ In all, this is a book about survival, but this speaker is honest enough to say she’s hasn’t been made whole: ‘A demolition after my own heart.’ What a lovely debut!
Where can you be simultaneously prosecuted and seduced while you have your fool heart blessed? Here, in Amy Woolard’s Neck of the Woods, a book of such mesmerizing intensity that, while reading it, I often had to remind myself to breathe. Woolard is an artist far advanced in her idiom, riding poems deep into their thresholds. Her language is incisive, double-edged, wry, witty, and asks ‘for real’ about the stories we weaponize and their sharp fragments that glitter on our tongues. Each poem ‘walk[s] into the mouth/of an open question’ and is willing to be as sweet and as ruthless as it needs to be to get where it needs to go. A tour de force.
Girl flees monster. Girl defeats monster. Girl becomes monster. The rural American South delivers one story disguised as many stories, many stories disguised as corn and slaw, a feast disguised as exploitation, a getaway that means you never leave. The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz falls in love with you, and love means he will never leave you alone, but you are alone, because your best friend from when you were twelve will never come back: ‘now there’s just the blonde past.’ Amy Woolard’s poetry is sorcery, scary, intense, sugar-sweet, enticing, ready to ‘follow her scent into her last open question,’ and she knows what she’s about: it’s an atmosphere, an attitude, an smart answer, an intelligence with blood-red, beet-red roots. It stays with you. Stay close to it. Give it your time, your eyes, your page-perusing fingertips, your heart.