Every Atom, Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s second poetry collection is forthcoming in April 2018 from Boreal books, an imprint of Red Hen Press.
“With clarity and grace, Erin Coughlin Hollowell cleaves into the liminal spaces between living and merely existing, between the past and forgetting, between mother and daughter, and brings us these hard-won and resilient gifts from her journey. Every Atom is a book that you need to read, because in it are the poems that matter.”
―Kevin Goodan, author of Let the Voices
“Erin Hollowell has written a stunning and beautiful tribute to a mother as she slips away into loss of memory and belonging in a body and family. And yet the richness of relation here―wreckage and tenderness―is a balm for the losses we all know we will suffer on behalf of those who have given us our lives and for our very selves. ‘Saint Crow,’ she writes, for darkness is indeed an entrance into the holy in these wise and nourishing poems.”
―Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Stairway to Heaven
“There comes a moment in every Erin Coughlin Hollowell poem when the heart threatens to burst open and spill light.”
―Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter
Whitman’s beautifully encompassing song asserts myself is also others. If “every atom belongs to me as good belongs to you,” then any given person is both vessel of radical sympathy who, in being alive, affirms your own life, and existential threat entire. The paradox is only the more confusing when the other is one’s own mother, whose body in housing your own, remains forever after that haunted dwelling from which one is always an exile, even as you hold her hand, remind her who it is you are—her daughter—and tend to her as she dwindles from dementia to death. Erin Coughlin Hollowell attends with a stoic honesty to her mother’s dying and the vast blanks of mind that accompany it; she also writes with a wry humor whose wit is rooted in the difficulty of love. “It is not tidy, memory / A house built straddling a chasm.” So these poems demonstrate that difficulty, seeking after the relict memories inside the whiteout of years, those lived facts that lurk underneath the darkening mind, waiting for that song to arrive as if from the world itself that might stave off despair if not offer repair. Hollowell gives us the profound gift she also offers herself, not Whitman’s grass denying there is any such thing as death, but truer, the poem as ritual that is willing—lovingly, honestly—to memorize oblivion, and rehearse the death it knows it cannot reverse.
―Dan Beachy-Quick, author of gentlessness
Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler, is a brave book, full of poems that find not much to hang onto in this shaky and often dark world, but they hang on anyway, with a fierce joy. Inside each of them is the tension of “a crust, a crypt, a bomb,” but every day arrives new, with its hopes. There’s the Iceworm Festival in the dead of an Alaskan winter: “Heck, why not?” she writes. A man with a brain tumor is crowned “Citizen of the Year,” the Girl Scouts sing, and the night is lit from the inside. Reading these poems, I begin to be grateful for what’s cracked, what’s broken, and grateful for Hollowell’s eye that looks straight at it all, and makes of it these splendid, clear poems.
― Fleda Brown, former Delaware Poet Laureate, author of Reunion (Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry)
“There is a place where conversation ends. / Where a person becomes a locked door, Erin Coughlin Hollowell writes. And I think, yes, exactly, because this is where her poems pick up, dusting the outline of things left unsaid or unsayable. Densely packed as glacial ice, her short lines carry weight of many worlds—the charged desire and loneliness of a New York subway, the stale coffee of a South Dakota truck stop, a woman in a family photo who smells of breast milk, maples leaves / and the dirty fingerprints of boys. Finally, we are led home to a place alive with sandhill cranes and kelp and sea lions. Here you have a woman who has traveled far and has paid attention. I am grateful to be able to journey with her.”
― Nickole Brown, author of Sisters
The beautiful but often psychologically searing poems of Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler recall Robert Frank’s book of photographs The Americans. In poem after poem, Hollowell draws portraits of the kind of nearly gutted American soul Frank saw as he crossed the continent to take so many of his famous portraits. Her careful predication, sharp lineation, and spare but agonizing imagery takes each poem far into the soul of a human being who is in hardscrabble transition.
― Kevin Clark, author of Self Portrait with Expletives (Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series Book Competition winner)
Take a journey with a women coming into her own. The poems contained in Pause, Traveler, Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s first book range from cautionary tales to illuminations realized in the noisy hustle of Grand Central Station, to the self seen reflected back in a stranger’s eyes while getting in a cab. These poems are tender in their portrait of other lives, self-reverential and forgiving to one’s younger, innocent self and grateful for the painful lesson learned along the road to love and the final finding of a true home.
― Tina Shumann, author of As If, winner of the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize
Erin Hollowell’s first book of poetry is so exquisitely wrought that you’ll be tempted to read the entire book at one sitting. So go ahead and do that, but then go back and savor it again, and again. As a whole the poems chart a life full of attention to detail, whether it’s a gritty look at New York City streets (“Subway doors sever here/from there) or snapshots of a cross-country trip (“A woman rearranges her cigarettes, checks her hair/in the distortion of the tabletop jukebox”) or fresh images of wild Alaska (“Along the shore, bare alders rankle./ The wingbeat of my heart shallows/over the shattered slate water.”) Above all, it’s a love story – of human relationships and, even more strikingly, of the poet’s relationship to the world she travels within and settles deeply into: “Everything is cracked./ Nothing is perfect./…If we knew how the story ended,/how could we keep living it?”
― Marybeth Holleman, author of Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal and Heart of the Sound