Wound from the Mouth of a Wound
A Book Marks “Most Anticipated Poetry Collection of Fall/Winter 2020”
“Some girls are not made,” torrin a. greathouse writes, “but spring from the dirt.” Guided by a devastatingly precise hand, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound—selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil as the winner of the 2020 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry—challenges a canon that decides what shades of beauty deserve to live in a poem. greathouse celebrates “buckteeth & ulcer.” She odes the pulp of a bedsore. She argues that the vestigial is not devoid of meaning, and in kinetic and vigorous language, she honors bodies the world too often wants dead.
These poems ache, but they do not surrender. They bleed, but they spit the blood in our eyes. Their imagery pulses on the page, fractal and fluid, blooming in a medley of forms: broken essays, haibun born of erasure, a sonnet meant to be read in the mirror. greathouse’s poetry demands more of language and those who wield it. “I’m still learning not to let a stranger speak / me into a funeral.”
Concrete and evocative, Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a testament to persistence, even when the body is not allowed to thrive. greathouse—elegant, vicious, “a one-girl armageddon” draped in crushed velvet—teaches us that fragility is not synonymous with flaw.
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Praise and Prizes
“In [greathouse's] debut, they so brilliantly render emotion and empowerment in the context of transness, disability, and art that it leaves the reader breathless. There is a dazzling deftness to greathouse’s simultaneous construction and destruction of poems, bodies, life, that makes this collection unforgettable.”
“Interesting to note exactly who picks up the poetry pen. What life experience, what event, led to the decision? And did the poet even have a choice, or was poetry the last, best way to express what they knew hadn’t been expressed before? In the work of transgender, cripple-punk torrin a. greathouse, we now know of an unknown world that leaves us changed.”
“[A] number of the poems in torrin a. greathouse’s debut collection Wound from the Mouth of a Wound evoked pretty powerful emotions in me, not because the poems were raw but because greathouse put a lot of work into juxtaposing images and narrative action to jarring and evocative effect . . . This level of care and energy to the craft of poetry runs throughout.”
“torrin a. greathouse’s Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is an indomitable force . . . [A] truly remarkable study of persistence and resilience in a world that seeks to diminish them.”
“Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a remarkable excavation, multi-tasking in the best and most unforgettable ways. This collection attends to both beauty and ‘the ugly of my tongue / lolling serpent curled in the slick of my jaw’—serving up visionary mediations and diagramming maps across the galaxy of a body, all while looking out for others as guide or oracle. In these pages, the fragments and fusion of public and private desires dig into exhilarating terrain I didn’t quite realize I had been thirsty for all along. The everlasting and intimate result of this book feels like we’re holding a small thunderstorm in our hands.”
“Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a brilliant, necessary book, yes. But why? Because it proposes a poetics wherein lyricism and violence are shown together on the same page, often in the same image. This showing is painful, and very beautiful. This showing is ‘poverty inventing new magics,’ finding ‘so many methods to tend this garden / of salted flesh’; this steady gaze tells us exactly how it is: how beauty and terror enter our lives, each day: ‘A palm full of garlic cloves. / A flight of headless doves.’ What does it mean to live in a body? To suffer in this late empire? What does it mean to survive and offer a song? I say Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a brilliant and necessary book because it does all of this, yes—with intimacy, with honesty, with precision. torrin a. greathouse is an inimitable, endlessly compelling poet.”
“Wound from the Mouth of the Wound is an unbridled, luminescent curation of a body-mind as it bends and challenges time, upbringing, and power. Glorious as it is revealing, greathouse’s poetry cultivates Trans revelation, calling upon each stanza with stunning force and meticulous attention. Dear readers, this work isn’t just about chronic pain, the families we leave behind, or even how a body becomes, she reminds us, ‘Even in the harshest season, / we survive. We bloom forever / where we are told we don’t belong.’ I am thrilled by this unabashed debut. Consider this book is salve where the aches aren’t exactly specific and yet everywhere. Consider how this book interlaces human connection and catalogues tenacity and imagination, beyond flesh, beyond any doctor’s stethoscope. If you are a kid unloved no matter what checkbox you’re forced to fill, if you want to feel like a constellation, the exploratory grace and vastness of it, torrin a. greathouse will keep you reading, keep you alive.”