The Hundred Grasses
Shimmering and formally precise, the poems of this debut collection “fuse absence and presence in lines full of a feeling that has no opposite” (Brian Teare).
These are poems written from the periphery of an open field, poems rooted in the flatlands and lowlands: the Midwestern lawns, lakes, and creeks of Leila Wilson’s childhood, and the farms, canals, and seascapes near her family home’s in Holland. “We wonder / what we’re not / in the field,” writes Wilson—and reading The Hundred Grasses, we too are made to wonder about both what is lacking and what fills the void. In these poems, the act of looking animates what is seemingly static. Stillness becomes not absence but fullness. Sounds are culled from empty spaces, giving shape to life’s silences. In the process of this hollowing out and filling up, The Hundred Grasses morphs into an extended and unforgettable investigation of longing and loss, love and doubt.
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“Leila Wilson’s beautiful and necessary debut occupies a ground too often thought unavailable, that rich field where Modernist precision overlaps with Romantic enthusiasm. These poems cut against the contemporary grain because they are so deeply of the actual grain—attending to seed and flower, to the germ in the furrow. This collection reminds us lucky enough to read it that to encounter beauty is also to learn, almost secretly, almost thoughtlessly, beauty’s varied lessons.”
“The Hundred Grasses attends to haunted, sprawling, interior fields with American gothic intensity, and though firmly rooted in the material, these poems ‘hold / their doors toward / distance.’ Here, landscapes are emotional states as much as they are geographic ones, and a primordial wind blows through these poems. Each stark poem is a testament to what Leila Wilson says of tree branches: ‘They are best seen / bare in their / struggle.’ Here is bare struggle, singing.”
“Like Lorine Niedecker, Leila Wilson knows intimacy with nature and humans through rhyme in its largest sense, and these companionate poems abound in patterns that ‘capture scatter’ and assert consonance and connectivity in a world of dissonance and dispersal. Formally compressed but expansive in spirit, rigorously built from precision and paradox, these brilliant poems fuse absence and presence in lines full of a feeling that has no opposite.”
“Leila Wilson’s first book of poetry is an ode to and reflection on nature—how it works on us and we on it. Motifs of erosion, germination, decay, and migration highlight omnipresent cycles and connect to their human equivalents. . . . Careful readers will appreciate Wilson’s concise stanzas that not only build illuminating poetry but stand on their own.”