Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble
Selected by Matthew Olzmann for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, University of Utah Press (2022)
Inside this debut collection, girlhood’s dangers echo, transmuted, in the poet’s fears for her son. A body just discovering the vastness of “want’s new acreage” is humbled by chronic illness. Epithalamion turns elegy. But this world that so often seems capricious in its cruelty also shelters apple orchards, glass museums, schoolchildren, century-old sharks; “there’s no accounting for / all we want to save, no names.” Oliver’s polyphonic gathering of speakers includes lovers and saints, painters and dead poets, a hawk and a mother. In varied forms (ghazals and prose poems, dialogues and erasures, bref double and Golden Shovel, among others) these poems bear witness to and seek reprieve from disasters at once commonplace and terrifying. “I can’t surface for every scalpel slice, / I need a dreamy estuary present,” she writes. Stumbling toward joy across time and space, these poems hum with fear and desire, bewildering loss, and love’s lush possibilities.
“Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble is a marvelous book. It is at once both personal and political, searing and tender. On one page, these poems might skillfully speak to (and through) art and artists across centuries; next, they might tell a new story of Eve, contemplate the complications of America, or deftly chart the mysteries of the human spirit. Through it all, each poem is an event, and each event feels timeless and timely.”
—Matthew Olzmann, author of Contradictions in the Design
“In her marvelous debut collection, Carolyn Oliver brings the reader to the garden—the literal garden stalked by wasps, the metaphorical garden where Szymborska’s Polish consonants are ‘bunched like root vegetables’—a lush space of sweetness and growth but also danger. Oliver gives us the textures of a life, and the precariousness: the tremble, the crush, the dissolve, the fizzle. These are poems of the body and poems of the earth. What did I do when I finished this book? I immediately began it again.”
—Maggie Smith, author of Goldenrod and Good Bones
“Wunderkammer and honey-laden hive, Carolyn Oliver’s Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble is a spectacular feat of craft and wonder. Within the finely articulated fury of each poem, we feel ‘time turn nimbus’ and, dizzied, delight in the strange splendors offered here: the body—tender, desirous, wracked with pain, pulsed with pleasure, undone and born again through time—and its threats of memory and grave knowledge; the promise and peril of beloved others intimate, familiar, strange, and lost, perhaps regained; doubt, failure, and the exercise of faith, the poems their own forms of query and prayer. Oliver’s is a voice we’ve been waiting to hear, her music tuned to worlds we suspect, perhaps sound, but never quite touch. What else to call this music but alchemy? O, how these poems gleam—bright gems!—with skies ‘of beaten gold.’”
—Julie Phillips Brown, author of The Adjacent Possible
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Review by Tyler Truman Julian at The Shore.
Review by Jacob Prince in Miracle Monocle.
The Alcestis Machine
Carolyn Oliver’s second full-length collection
Forthcoming Fall 2024 from Acre Books
(Seven Kitchens Press, 2023)
Selected for the Rane Arroyo Series
(Bone & Ink Press, 2022)
(dancing girl press, 2022)
Poems on mothering, in fear and wonder.