The Wreck of Birds: Poems

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Review:

In The Wreck of Birds, the first winner of Bauhan Publishing’s May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, Rebecca Givens Rolland embraces an assimilation of internal feeling and thought with circumstances of the natural world and the conflicts and triumphs of our human endeavors. Here, we discover a language that seeks to at once replicate and transcend experiences of loss and disaster, and together with the poet “we hope that such bold fates will not forget us.” Even at the speaker’s most vulnerable moments, when “Each word we’d spoken / scowls back, mirrored in barrels of wind” these personal poems insist on renewal.  With daring honesty and formal skill, The Wreck of Birds achieves a revelatory otherness—what Keats called the “soul-making task” of poetry.
—Walter E. Butts, 2009-2014 New Hampshire Poet Laureate

The May Sarton New Hampshire Prize is named for May Sarton, the renowned novelist, memoirist, poet, and feminist (1912-1995) who lived for many years in Nelson, New Hampshire, not far from Peterborough, home of William L. Bauhan Publishing. Bill Bauhan was honored to publish Sarton’s poetry collection As Does New Hampshire in 1968. To celebrate the 2012 centennial of Sarton’s birth, Bauhan Publishing inaugurated the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. This year’s judge was the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire, Walter Butts.

The poems from this book concern themselves with myths of catastrophe, loss, and regeneration, with the surreal qualities of life at its breaking points, both in the personal sense—the dissolution of a relationship, the decisive moment before marriage—and in the historic—the disruption caused by volcanic eruptions or the prospect of death. This perspective combines recognition of the landscape with an exploration of the speaker's inner world, a territory that the editors of Women's Studies Quarterly referred to as the "psychocartography of the kitchen and beyond." At the same time, the voice in these poems maintains a psychological, personal view, attempting to embody the sensations and feelings brought on by such rapid shifts, utilizing disjointed phrases not merely as a language game but as a way of comprehending felt reality.

Poems from this series are in recent or forthcoming issues of Field, Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Gettysburg Review, Cincinnati Review, and a number of other journals.