Iris Cushing, Wyoming

Iris Cushing / Wyoming

2014 Furniture Press Poetry Prize / Selected by Thomas Devaney

6.75 x 9 / 80 pages / $12.99

ISBN: 978-1-940092-02-7

Just as one of its poems stranges the word ‘Wyoming’ from place to verb, the book Wyoming makes elegant, witty, and surprising transformations at every turn. These are finely wrought poems with all the theater and freedom of a westward drive, but with an uncommon, even unfashionable sensibility, all Cushing’s own: precise, weird, beautiful, and questing. —Maggie Nelson

Iris Cushing’s Wyoming is a figure of place, a topos: The West as acid trip, art-space, corny historical re-enactment, and land mass of brute and awesome beauty; locus of an almost erotic nostalgia for a dream-frontier that may never have existed, but nevertheless persists. When Cushing writes that, like the circle of stones around a campfire, “we contain something / that spreads,” consider how the mythos of the Wild West has magnified and ranged over time through the global imagination. In Wyoming, a prospector’s pickaxe might eerily unearth “an empty space in the shape of me / where Gloria Swanson used to be”; at the very least, wherever it strikes, it can’t avoid deep veins of longing. Romantic, skeptical, haunting, these poems thrill me with their truth and inventiveness, their technical dexterity, the oscillations of body-mind-spirit rhythms, and their wagonloads of tarnished, glittering, and reduced-to-ashes props. Cushing’s poems contain—ingeniously, dangerously, lovingly— such excesses of real gold and fool’s gold at the heart of the American Sublime. —Miranda Field

Iris Cushing’s debut collection Wyoming stakes out a number of promisingly wide regions. Cushing’s portraits of people and places are alive and reaching, and have a remarkable openness. Her eye is sharp, and her ear is truly something to hear. The effects are often magnetic. “I have swallowed a very powerful magnet / on the shore of Lake Monona” goes one poem titled “Because this winter I am the same age Otis Redding was when he died.” Cushing’s brightly textured poetry is one of discovery and inscription. In “Eight Offspring of Light,” she writes, “Discrete unit of/ an interior history— bluffs, crumpled crater / paper / wet wad of stone / as dense / a story written on it.” Reading Wyoming, I felt continually transported. There are stories and histories too, but they are told in image and song rather by way of narrative. —Thomas Devaney

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