Wound from the Mouth of a Wound

Winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award

“A densely packed treasure trove of verse. Bodies rise up here as sites of gender, trauma, ability, and violence. A gut punch you won’t soon shake off, this is one of 2020’s absolute best releases.” —BUSTLE
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Winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award
A Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Poetry
A CLMP Firecracker Award Finalist in Poetry
A Bustle Best Book of the Year

“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.

Publish Date
6.5 × 8 × 0.25 in
5.5 oz

torrin a. greathouse

torrin a. greathouse is a transgender cripple-punk and MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. She is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. In 2020, they received fellowships from Zoeglossia and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

Praise and Prizes

  • “The poems in this [Wound from the Mouth of a Wound] methodically subvert traditional notions of beauty, to show how they leave no room for a ‘transgender cripple-punk’ like the author.”

    New York Times Book Review
    “New & Noteworthy Poetry”
  • Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a densely packed treasure trove of verse. Bodies rise up here as sites of gender, trauma, ability, and violence. A gut punch you won’t soon shake off, this is one of 2020’s absolute best releases.”

  • “Sometimes, if I’m lucky, every year or so, there is a poetry collection that completely floors me, unnerves me, and opens my eyes by sheer force of words. May I introduce you to Wound From the Mouth of a Wound? … Each page, each sentence, surprises and cuts deep and will keep you reading, unable to turn away.”

  • “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.”

    Book Marks
    “Most Anticipated Poetry Collections of Fall/Winter 2020”
  • greathouse writes, ‘I cannot find the poem in all of this, but I can’t bear to let it go unspoken.’ Luckily for readers, she finds the poem time and again in these revelatory lyrics … After turning language into a verb, greathouse holds out the tantalizing possibility that we could use language to imagine worlds that welcome marginalized bodies.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “[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.”

    The Rumpus
    Poetry Book Club Selection, December 2020
  • Wound from the Mouth of a Wound is a tremendous contribution to an emerging trans and queer poetics that is complicating language and the canon in order to reflect an equally complex human experience of beauty and erasure. greathouse is a precise, miraculous surgeon with language who sews together a deep gash in our body politic and poetic imagination.”

    The Normal School
  • [Wound from the Mouth of a Wound] positively thrums with the stuff of life: blood, sweat, pus, tears, spit. Like the body, these poems feel both breathtakingly tenuous and surreally strong; they are a celebration — of survival and of the effort it takes to do just that.”

    Best New Books of Fall 2020
  • “These poems are like the sharp, bright rays that pierce through on a stormy day: illuminating, unsparing, & viciously beautiful.”

    Books Are Magic
  • “The glittering, energetic debut from greathouse seeks to honor and give voices to all bodies … It is the persistence and desire for survival in these poems that makes this collection unflinching in its vulnerability and its power.”

    Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
  • “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.”

    Foreword Reviews
  • “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.”

    Arkansas International
  • “torrin a. greathouse’s collection Wound from the Mouth of a Wound leaks … Something gushes from each page: water, blood, saliva, tears, rain, gin, lake water, alcohol, gasoline, sweat, open hydrants, bile, piss, buttermilk, come … The poems in this collection ask: What is made to sink? Who is able to float? To what conditions must we accede when we float? Is floating such an easy, desirable thing?”

    Harvard Review
  • “[Wound from the Mouth of a Wound] artfully demonstrates greathouse’s proficiency with language and her energetic ability to transform images in service to her story … greathouse calls readers into a community that values trans people and people with disabilities.”

    Lambda Literary
  • “This book is so, so important. And aside from all of this, it is beautiful, even when it shows us something ugly. Regardless of who you are: read it, live with it, and then read it again.”

    Colorado Review
  • “Yes, these poems are both beautiful and brutal, both enticing and horrifying. They are the car crash you can’t help but stare at, they are the familiar face in the crowd, the one you can’t look away from because you are almost certain it belongs to you.”

    The Poetry Question
  • “In [Wound from the Mouth of a Wound], [greathouse] centers the queer disabled body, and the viscerality of the body in general, in paradigms of beauty, rage, and love, with language that bites (in the very best way).”

    The Seventh Wave
  • “Demanding, supple, vast.”

    Ms. Magazine
  • “This collection, despite dealing with impactful themes, is not a chore to read. It is accessible and easy to follow, overflowing with evocative imagery, and it filled me with the sense of empowerment that one might get from watching a beautiful flower emerge from a crack in the concrete. Works like these are how the light gets in.”

    Books Beyond Binaries
  • 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.”

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • 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.”

    Ilya Kaminsky
  • 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.”

    Kay Ulanday Barrett