Elizabeth Powell at GMR recommended this book to me and was a true joy to work with. I greatly hope to have the opportunity to review for them again in the future.
This book is absolutely gorgeous: imagistic, lyrical, eerie, dreamlike, rural, violent, sexual… It reminded me how important it is to take risks in our work—and also how OKAY it is to sacrifice a little of our poetry’s accessibility in the name of beauty, language, and truth.
Because of this, it also challenged me to revisit my own work, to question where I’ve turned complacent, and where I’ve become too comfortable.
Constantly wrestling with new terrain and images, Voras-Hills’ collection is anything but safe, anything but complacent. Her work challenges what is beautiful, what is normal, even what promotes happiness in poem after poem—if not line after line.
I found myself particularly identifying with Angela Voras-Hills’ work because of her lyric and subtlety, as well as several of her core themes and rooting in Midwestern living. Reading this also repeatedly took me back to the work I did with Shaindel Beers‘ latest collection, Secure Your Own Mask, from White Pine Press, which wrestles with similar themes.
I hope you will find the time to visit Angela Voras-Hills’ collection. I cannot stress enough how lovely, complex, and memorable it is.
Before I go, here’s a poem I particularly love from Louder Birds. I hope you enjoy it, too.
MAPS OF PLACES DRAWN TO SCALE
Ten minutes from a two-week vacation,
a van flips on an exit ramp. In a small town,
the van is bigger. On the highway,
it’s just a van, heading toward a hotel. This
is global positioning: a man is ejected and the van
lands on top of him. In a small town, a priest
knows the man’s name, but Death does not
concern itself with formalities. It also does not take
the man whole: only his legs and anything else
it can grab below the waist. At a Chinese buffet,
Death is stuffing her cheeks
with crab rangoons, while a family
stands behind her with empty plates. Nobody stuck
to the vinyl booth finds “You will suffer”
inside their cookie, but it’s implied
in the parking lot. A child breaks free
from her mother’s arms and runs head-first
into traffic. In the city, there are always
detours. But in a small town, there’s one
name for each baby born, and eventually
it’s on the lips of everyone in the street.
—from Louder Birds and previously featured on The Adroit Journal
If you’d like to see more, I have one other poem by Voras-Hills posted on my website already. You can read it here.
ANGELA VORAS-HILLS is a poet, community organizer, and instructor living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She spends a great deal of time running around city and watching birds in the backyard with her children. Her first collection of poems, Louder Birds, was chosen by Traci Brimhall for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, New Ohio Review, Memorious, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, and Best New Poets, among other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded grants from The Sustainable Arts Foundation and Key West Literary Seminar, as well as a fellowship from the Writers’ Room of Boston. Before moving to Milwaukee, she also co-founded a literary arts organization, The Watershed: A Place for Writers, which evolved into Arts + Literature Laboratory in Madison.