Ruth Baumann’s chapbook, wildcold, opens with Rilke’s instruction, “Listen to the night as it makes itself hollow”. Here, I must admit my hesitance to dive into any work that prefaces itself with an oft-quoted (and often misquoted) poet. And here is where I am glad to say my literary-prejudice had its teeth kicked in.
Winner of the Slash Pine Press chapbook contest, the poems in Baumann’s second collection feel like cupping your palms to receive a handful of singularities; the poems themselves are small, but their weight is undeniable. The book opens with “Prelude I”, the first of five that intersperse themselves throughout the book. In it the reader is asked only one question, “Can the dead smell a storm like dogs do?”, but still forced to consider the beauty and impossibility of a series of thoughts that feel like they came moments before poet went to sleep.
“Whisper tornado into a tornado.
Imagine art constructed without blame.
The impracticality of grace.”
In all of these poems, Baumann constructs small worlds bent on mediating themselves into or out of existence. Her series of “Dream Interpretations” manage to keep their ethereal aura without falling into cliché, and a refreshing “Ars Poetica” reels the reader back in at just the right moment in the collection. The question all of these poems are asking seems well posited in “Prelude II”.
“You can blow on your hands
for warmth all night, but what
does the temporary prove?”
To find the answer, I suggest you get your copy of wildcold as soon as possible – Slash Pine typically prints only 125 copies.
- Ruth Baumann holds an MFA from the University of Memphis, & is pursuing her PhD at Florida State University. Her chapbook I'll Love You Forever & Other Temporary Valentines won the Salt Hill Dead Lake Chapbook Contest. Her second chapbook, wildcold, is forthcoming from Slash Pines Press in 2016. She won an AWP Intro Journals Project Award in 2014, & has poems published in Colorado Review, Sonora Review, Sycamore Review, The Journal, Third Coast & others listed at www.ruthbaumann.com.
Reviewed by Kyle J. Bassett