My Heart But Not My Heart

Chosen by Solmaz Sharif as winner of the 2019 Slope Book Prize.

Cover of My Heart But Not My Heart

Stephanie Cawley’s My Heart But Not My Heart, I want to say, is a book of refusals. The losses and grief that refuse language, the poet’s own refusal of certain performances, the poem’s refusal of expected forms, the speaker’s refusal to slap a manicure on and understand it as self-care, despite the therapist’s best intentions. It is in part about the ways in which our refusals, and our passivity, brought about often by external forces and pressures are then pathologized, medicated, explained away in the dismal language of diagnosis.

Solmaz Sharif, from her introduction to My Heart But Not My Heart

If My Heart But Not My Heart by Stephanie Cawley is a body, it is the sensorium of death’s wake and loss of the beloved. And what do we ask of the body that is to be read, the body that investigates the very materiality of the body’s relationship to being? We ask, perhaps, that when it captures us within the intensity of its feeling, that it also brings us to the ecstatic—a way to stroke suffering. Cawley’s astonishing collection of poetry finds ecstasy where its gorgeous, patient language meets the philosophical. We cannot help but be elevated.  ‘Does your tongue get stuck,’ Cawley writes, ‘in the gap between is and was? / There is an actual shrinking.’ Like in Alice Notley’s great monument to loss in ‘At Night the States,’ the hands hold what replaces. The poems’ insistence on the missing text make my knees weak with its persistent and haunting beauty. Stephanie Cawley is an extremely talented new voice, and she’s written a stunning book.

Dawn Lundy Martin

Circuitous in its precision, My Heart But Not My Heart maps the networks that form a body and the networks that a body can make. Stephanie Cawley measures a topography of hurt that is ornate and banal, and therefore very, very true. Every sentence holds an entire forest—vast, historical, traumatic, haunting, seasonally lush and seasonally spare—so masterfully contoured that sky and liquid bend with exquisite and controlled humility.

Lily Hoang

Read an excerpt here.
Read an interview here.

A Wilderness

Chosen by Khadijah Queen as winner of the 2018 Gazing Grain Press All-Genre Chapbook Contest

A Wilderness tells us a story about transformation, even as it transforms itself in the chaotic act of telling. Animal, human, flood, wind, trees, gold, stone, language, history—all accumulate in the speaker’s process of becoming: ‘I wanted to be myself, described, not some other form.’ There is a desire to remake, to keep remaking: ‘To edit a seam until it opens.’ I keep wanting to quote lines because the chapbook speaks so well for itself, a point of light that exists despite and amidst tenebrosity: ‘Under the threat of chaos I gleam like a single, wet seed.’ A Wilderness writes in praise of resilience, in acute awareness of terror and disaster, and ranges from gravity to exuberance—ultimately full of the kind of wisdom we want from poetry, the kind that understands the impossibilities life demands and shows us infinite ways to acknowledge them, and keep going.

Khadijah Queen
A Wilderness cover

Read pieces from A Wilderness here & here & here.
Read an interview here.