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“How strange and hewn and scarified these poems are! In her drive to claim the singularity of her own singed (and searing) fables, Joan Houlihan has composed a brilliant ‘black startlebox’ of oddment and truths. The Mending Worm is a book of stunning accomplishment.”

Lucie Brock-Broido

“Joan Houlihan’s images and figures are lapidary, her diction alert and startling, her lines chiseled, their sounds echoing back and forth, and yet for all the exquisite craft in these poems, there is something terrible and wild underneath their surfaces. Feral animals are prowling through them. Her typical landscape is a desolate, snowy shoreline. ‘What the sea dredges up in the dark’ writes Houlihan, ‘is sand tooth, fishbone, spine, / hard fruit of tide.’ So too this book delivers hard news. There are murderers about to be executed, and cancers to be survived maybe. Injury and pain is at the heart of being, but as the title poem tells us, there is also a mending impulse, a restoration to be humbly sought or created. It is something, as Houlihan writes, ‘we can do together.’ The Mending Worm gives us poems that in their art and authenticity render whole that which has been shattered. Read them and you will see.”

Fred Marchant

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