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ISBN: 978-1-943981-00-7 | Price: $15.00 | 114 pgs. | 8.5 x 5.5 inches | perfect bound


Tremolo by Kelly Hansen Maher (March 2016)

In Tremolo, Kelly Hansen Maher explores the strange grief and strained sensibility that arose from years of recurrent miscarriages. Questioning the bodily and psychological confusion of bearing one living daughter amid several lost pregnancies, Hansen Maher resists the sentimental even as her lament is inevitable. She situates her poems in wildernesses both urban and remote, with a lens that moves from the cultural to the intensely intimate. Against imagery of loons and lakes, residential gardens and city boulevards, she deflects metaphor even as she evokes it.

Told in six sections that work as an anchoring score, complete with an Overture, Tremolo guides the reader to listen for, and hear, meaning in the invisible. In the long poem “Loon Calls for Winifred,” written for a stillborn daughter, Hansen Maher uses four varying loon calls and her travels through Minnesota’s Boundary Waters as a structural sequence for grief. Her language is, in turns, musical, philosophical, patterned, and plain. Tremolo tells a cyclical story of unseen loss and private mourning.


Fractured lyric is an apt mode in which to translate the amorphous, humming state that is pregnancy. It’s even more apt when documenting the rupture of pregnancy loss—and the speaker in this heartbreaking, unsentimental, resilient book experiences many, many such losses. Through the rage and panic and grief and strain and deep love, Kelly Hansen Maher “asks the word for order.” As a result, the cold lake air of Tremolo is punctuated with the “broken howl” of compressed and split-apart language: “fin d lean we l earn how tow ail.” This is a story profoundly without resolution. Its reader will be altered.

—Arielle Greenberg, co-author of Home/Birth: A Poemic

Beneath Maher's traceries lie grief and rage: this speaker lives the life of a mother and lover at the same time she is part of a species that can never "adapt or be amphibious." Anyone who has mourned another human will recognize the irreconcilable atmospheres of Tremolo: ignition and extinguishment, calmness and panic.

—Joy Katz, author of All You Do Is Perceive

Tremolo, the first collection of poems by Kelly Hansen Maher, is brilliant. Brilliant in its forms, heart-wrenching and heart-wrecking in its content, Tremolo is an extraordinary work of art. This book, full of loon calls and crows, of northern waters, trees, storms and the aftermath of storms (uprooted trees, root systems lifting pavement for skateboarders longing for lift-off, absence of shadow and the blessing of shade)is also full of grief, howling, wild grief and also the calm voice of deep mourning. This is, among other things, a book of remembrance for the loss, as the poet says, “ of these little lives that I carried but could not mother,” early pregnancy losses, one after the other, little lives given voice in the section, Chorus Persona, where in the poem, Fifth Voice, 40 Weeks, we readers also receive the gift of one live birth, arrival of a beloved daughter, “my one bucking hero/pinch-formed and radiant, so absolutely radiant…”

Tremolo is a great work of art. Kelly Hansen Maher’s language is so rich, there’s such bounty here, showing us what poetry can be. Her book, drenched in sorrow and wisdom, unfolds in unrelenting beauty. We are so fortunate to have this book in our hands, in our lives.

—Deborah Keenan, author of ten collections of poetry and the craft book From Tiger to Prayer

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