The Clearing: Poems


Product Details

$22.00  $20.46
Milkweed Editions
Publish Date
6.7 X 8.4 X 0.6 inches | 0.65 pounds

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About the Author

Allison Adair's poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, Kenyon Review Online, North American Review, and ZYZZYVA, among other journals. Recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Florida Review Editors' Award, the Orlando Prize, and first place in Mid-American Review's Fineline Competition, she holds a MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Originally from central Pennsylvania, Allison Adair lives in Boston.


The poems in Adair's debut draw on folklore and the animal world to assert feminist viewpoints and mortal terror in lush musical lines, as when 'A fat speckled spider sharpens / in the shoe of someone you need.' --New York Times Book Review, New & Noteworthy Poetry

Astonishing and luminous . . . [The Clearing] is an alchemical feat, turning horror into beauty as Adair reveals what surges beneath--the violence, want, grief, thrill, and nameless fury. --Boston Globe

Adair considers in her imaginative debut the intersection of human and animal life, closely examining the experience of womanhood . . . Like Grimms' fairy tales, Adair's poems are dark without being bleak, hopeless, or disturbing. Readers will find the collections lush language and provocative imagery powerfully resonant. --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Juxtaposing somber images from the natural world (a runt rabbit, a strangled swan, a floor of dead birds, a landscape made of a woman's hair) against seemingly more durable materials like bones, chicken wire, rifles, and coins, Adair's poems take as their central subject emotional and physical violence against women, which in this collection distorts all of life's natural processes. Many of the poems are masterful. --Literary Hub, Best New Books to Read This Summer

The opening poem in the collection feels like a fable and nightmare; a scene out of time. 'We'll write this story again and again, // how her mouth blooms to its raw venous throat--that tunnel / of marbled wetness, beefy, muted, new pillow for our star // sapphire, our slugging prospecting--and how dark birds come / after, to dress the wounds, no, to peck her sockets clean.' We leave the poem a little scared, a little curious, and certainly more aware: The Clearing meditates on what is asked of women, and what is taken from them. --The Millions, Must-Read Poetry: June 2020

Allison Adair is capable of a lush lyricism whose beauty is impartial, lighting up the junk of a region, a culture, and a family, its toxic heritage of violence and violation, while haloing the uncluttered space that remains after the mess has been cleared away. --Los Angeles Review of Books

[E]lectric, brilliant with loss and searching . . . As we read, we are on a journey into the woods with strangers, and The Clearing's poems capture the beauty and terror of sudden, new site-lines. --Colorado Review

A dark and bodily nod to folk- and fairy-tale energy. --Boston Globe

It's difficult to believe that The Clearing is Allison Adair's first full collection of poems. Her once-upong-a-times are generational oral histories, from the Civil War to present day. They will endure, even as the land and these people endure, despite the violence done to it and them, despite the attempts to silence them directly or by neglect. Adair speaks for and through them, allowing their rugged, dented beauty to shine through in exceptional fashion, This assured, layered, altogether extraordinary debut collection will linger in readers' minds long after the first reading. --Los Angeles Review

The Clearing is a light show all its own, pungent and beautiful as a prairie fire. It is a collection one shouldn't risk lending out, if they ever want to see it again. --The Florida Review

Adair's poems are set in new stone, a poetic language for fear, danger, and escape . . . [Adair] knows that transformation comes from reexamination and reinvention, and she empowers her readers by not only changing the story but reclaiming its protagonists. --Green Mountains Review

In The Clearing . . . Adair charts the concept of nuanced fairy tales--in both their magic and darkness--from the Civil War to now. The work ruminates on gender politics and the history of violence, juxtaposing severity and tenderness. --Read Poetry

The Clearing is a book where the process of reading mimics the imagistic architecture . . . The result is an immersive linguistic world that invites a lingering, engaged contemplation and invites repeated readings and renderings of your own experience into its pages. --Dasha Bulatova, Empty Mirror

The Clearing traverses chicken-wired landscapes teeming with hunters and wolves, fields empty but for disappointment and danger. Personal trauma is recounted throughout with intimate detail and hard-won wisdom . . . Her poems unflinchingly face scenes of violence, painful miscarriage, young motherhood, absent men. And as much as The Clearing is a confronting of loss and grief, it's also a stunning work of reimagining and rebuilding. --Open Books: A Poem Emporium

In Adair's stunning debut collection, the verbs are vivid; the metaphors imagistic; the topics ranging through small town secrets, parenthood and childhood, physical love, violence and tragedy. These bold poems are imbued with the grittiness of landscape, biology, geology, and anchored by the recurring motif of searching below the surface like metal detectors or mines for things like fossils and rot, but also veins of gold and memories. --Ben Groner, Parnassus Books

"The Clearing is a lush, lyrical book about a world where women are meant to carry things to safety and men leave decisively. Out of dry farming soil come these wise, mineral-like poems about young motherhood, mining disasters, miscarriages, memory, and much more. Allison Adair's poems are haunting and dirt caked, but there is also a tense beauty everywhere. I found The Clearing devastating." --Henri Cole

"'What if this time instead of crumbs the girl drops / teeth, her own, what else does she have...' So begins Allison Adair's The Clearing, the title poem leading us, tooth by tooth, line by line, into this dark forest of a book. Adair's phrases are spell-like, their ingredients mixed in surprising, potent ways: 'the fat matter of memory, ' a caterpillar's 'sad accordion hymn, ' the 'Gregorian green singing grass.' I would follow this poet wherever her mind goes--even into the deepest woods, into memories of grief and loss--and I would trust her words to lead me out again. The Clearing is brilliant, gutting, completely original." --Maggie Smith

"Adair dives into motherhood, history, and the now to find the currents--loss, violence, yearning--that keep us afloat, that shipwreck us. Her gaze is clear-eyed, precise, and jarring: 'The dog's staph-eaten paw / soaking in a Cool Whip bowl' and 'the caterpillar inches along, lost / in its sad accordion hymn.' Her lyricism is astonishing and her attentiveness to sound dazzles: antlers rub against apple bark, bats drown, and music is struck from anvils. Adair's sensory-rich language doesn't reconfigure pain into beauty, though. It does something harder--it forces us to contend with the light and the dark inside each of us." --Eduardo Corral

"Allison Adair's poems chart the measureless ways that trauma is born of violence and loss while reminding us that tenderness and mercy are descendants of grief. Wise, rapturous, and thicketed with hair-raising imagery, this collection has women wading through landscapes teeming with wolves and real-life danger surreal enough to be remembered, rendered as fable. This effect--this devastatingly beautiful book--lingers off the page. It illuminates itself in the moment and at unexpected hours. The Clearing is an extraordinary debut." --Marcus Wicker