Finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

“A must for anyone wanting to read the hard beauty and fragility of the environment anew.”—AIMEE NEZHUKUMATATHIL
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Finalist for the 2024 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Finalist for the 2024 Minnesota Book Award
Longlisted for the Julie Suk Award

A haunting collection that inhabits a disquieting future where fear is the governing body, “the organ and the tissue / and the cell, the membrane and the organelle.”

“Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen.” Part requiem, part bedtime story, Meltwater narrates the awful possibility of doom as well as the grim temptation to numb ourselves to it. Prose poems melt into erasures, erasures swell into lush catalogs. Within this formal ebb and flow, Claire Wahmanholm explores both abundance and annihilation, giving shape and music to our shared human anxieties. What does it mean to bring children into a world like this one? A world where grenades are “the only kind of fruit we can still name”? Where “lightning can strike over / and over without boredom or belief and nothing / is saved”? Where losses, both ecological and personal, proliferate endlessly?

Here, a parent’s joy is accompanied by the gnaw of remorse. And yet, Wahmanholm recognizes, children bind us to the world—to its missiles and marvels, to the possibility that there is indeed grace worth “suffer[ing] the empty universe for.”

If we are going to worry, let us also at least wonder. If we are going to be seized by terror, let us also be “seized by the topaz sky and the breeze through it.” A glittering, kinetic testament to vanishing—of biodiversity, of climate stability, of a sense of safety—Meltwater is both vindication and balm.

Publish Date
8.5 × 6 × 0.25 in
6.8 oz

Claire Wahmanholm

Claire Wahmanholm is the author of Meltwater, Redmouth, and Wilder, which won the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry and the Society of Midland Authors Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2019 Minnesota Book Award.

Praise and Prizes

  • Meltwater feels necessary and urgent. And comforting… Art that surveys the atmospheric wreckage of the Anthropocene might be the only way to soothe the existential dread that accompanies this fast-warming planet’s forecast”

  • “Despite the inherent sorrow that accompanies our necropastoral landscape, this collection nevertheless remains tender and beautiful as it ruminates on ongoing loss.”

    Marissa Ahmadkhan, West Review
  • Meltwater guides readers through a deep-welling grief for a world in upheaval while offering an antidote to some of that grief. While the collection is heavy with mourning, it is also subtly and deftly uplifting, prompting us to remember the simple things that we “suffer the empty universe for.”

    Zoe Binder, zyzzyva
  • “Claire Wahmanholm is a poet of devastating inevitability, of all the living that comes after the apocalypse, and Meltwater is ‘a vast, organic machine / running like static behind everything.’”

    Allison Flory, Arkansas International
  • “Wahmanholm most certainly writes the body and land electric—and I am charged, crackling, and grateful for these stunning poems. Meltwater makes a wholly original music of land, loss, and motherhood. A must for anyone wanting to read the hard beauty and fragility of the environment anew.”

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • “When we call a poet visionary, we usually mean that the poet in question shows us impalpable abstractions in realms far removed from our own. But Claire Wahmanholm is a visionary of the concrete, the stippled and slippery textures of the precarious present, and the unthinkably imminent. The patterns she reveals to us are the fractal geometries of fear as our surroundings, our loves, and our very selves are pulled into the spiraling inevitabilities of ecological collapse. These poems are devastating, even in their heartrending tenderness. Wahmanholm is a poet of singular and essential power.”

    Monica Youn
  • “In Claire Wahmanholm’s Meltwater, ‘the world’ means entanglement. In these poems, things pour through one another; even thinkings pour through one another, via the melting form of the erasure. There is no outside to the book’s ecology, and nothing to be considered in isolation: alphabets and glaciers; human love and human loss, human folly and human violence; animal continuity and species devastation; hairdryers and zygotes. We are inescapably permeated by the everything that is ‘us’: water, ice; land; animal, mineral, vegetable beings and their ways of making meaning; human beings and human ways of making meaning. When Wahmanholm writes, with others before her, that ‘you are grass,’ I know it.”

    Éireann Lorsung
  • “Wahmanholm delivers a dynamic collection of poems in which parenthood, nature, reverie, and anticipation intersect in a surreal landscape that illustrates the cognitive dissonance of an age of impending destruction. […] This is a hypnotic and devastating maelstrom of introspection.”

    Publishers Weekly, starred review