Catching Up with Claire Wahmanholm

Cover of "Redmouth" by Claire Wahmanholm: pinkish-red icebergs under a gray sky

Where can we read some of your recent work?

Since 2015, I’ve published two books: Wilder (Milkweed Editions, 2018) and Redmouth (Tinderbox Editions (whee!) 2019). You can find poems from my third MS in 32 Poems, The Southeast Review, Literary Matters, Beloit Poetry Journal, Great River Review, The Los Angeles Review, and The Academy of American Poets

What are you reading right now? 

Cover of "Wilder" by Claire Wahmanholm: title oriented vertically over a moon over a red background.

I’m in the middle of the Sealey Challenge! So far I’ve read Itself (Wesleyan UP, 2015) by Rae Armantraut; Be Recorder (Graywolf, 2019) by Carmen Giménez Smith; Homie (Graywolf, 2020) by Danez Smith; Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf, 2020) by Natalie Diaz; Space Struck (Sarabande, 2019) by Paige Lewis; Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Univeristy of Pitt Press, 2015) by Ross Gay; Allegria (Archipelago Books, 2020) by Giuseppe Ungaretti, translated by Geoff Brock; My My (Saturnalia Books, 2020) by Kristi Maxwell; Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50 (Milkweed Editions, 2020) by Lee Ann Roripaugh; A Treatise on Stars (New Directions, 2020) by Mei Mei Berssenbrugge; Maps and Transcripts of the Ordinary World (Milkweed, 2020) by Kathryn Cowles; Insecurity System (Persea, 2020) by Sara Wainscott; Burning Province (McClelland Books, 2020) by Michael Prior; and Syncope (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2019) by Asiya Wadud. It’s been a welcome distraction from the absolute shitshow that is back-to-school season. I haven’t been able to keep up with the 1 book/day goal, but I’m getting through as many as I can! 

At this ABSOLUTE MOMENT, I’m re-reading S. Brook Corfman’s Meteorites (DoubleCross Press, 2018) in anticipation of their second full-length, My Daily Actions, or The Meteorites (forthcoming from Fordham in a few short weeks!). I’m head-over-heels for a good prose poem, and the book itself is a gorgeous art object (see image below!). In my reading at least, each poem functions as a mini-essay (in the original sense) that progressively clarifies the contours of an amorphous trauma—one that becomes clear at the end of the book. All good books should support at least a second reading, but this one insists on it. When I got to the last poem, I actually gasped. Like, you’ve been putting pieces together in a dark room and the final poem is the light switch that reveals what’s been beneath your hands this whole time. My experience of the second reading was so radically different from the first. Like, my knowledge of the context made me heavier, denser—it affected the way gravity behaved: it accelerated the speed at which damage was pulled toward me.

But while Meteorites (again, to my reading) relies on arc to a certain extent, its form also invites you to destabilize that arc. You can shuffle each poem around if you choose. To me, this replicates what an anxious (though deeply rational) mind might do, but also demonstrates how trauma manipulates and disorganizes time. That is, the particular trauma that anchors the book is not a one-off event that has occurred to one person at one time: it is repeatable—not just theoretically, but, even, inevitably. Regardless of how you arrange the individual poems, that final card is always in the stack.

"Meteorites" by S. Brook Corfman: A shiny envelope with the title on it, stacks of cards with poems, and a shiny object shaped like a bird.

(from Meteorites)

Anyway, it’s electrifying and deeply unsettling, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how these poems read as part of a larger project.

What’s next for you?

I’ve recently completed the MS for my third book, which is super exciting, so *hopefully* it’ll be out in the world before too terribly long. But in the meantime! If you’re in NYC you can go see my poem “O” as part of the exhibition Wrecked Alphabet (October 4 – December 5, 2020), and I’ve also got poems forthcoming from the next issues of Copper Nickel, Image, Great River Review, Descant, and Grist

Claire Wahmanholm


Claire Wahmanholm’s most recent collection is Redmouth (Tinderbox Editions, 2019). A 2020 McKnight Writing Fellow, her poems are forthcoming from New Poetry from the Midwest 2019, Descant, Image, Copper Nickel, and Grist, and have recently appeared on Poetry Daily and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series. She lives and teaches in the Twin Cities.

Social Media: 

I’m on Facebook, Twitter (@cwahmanholm), and Insta (cwahmanholm)