Wound is the Origin of Wonder
Maya C. Popa
I can’t undo all I have done to myself,
what I have let an appetite for love do to me.
I have wanted all the world, its beauties
and its injuries; some days,
I think that is punishment enough.
Maya C. Popa’s poems explore the capacity of wonder to reawaken our appetite for the world, at a time that is fraught with the threat of endings, engaging lucidly with the most profound questions we face in our collective responsibilities and our relations with each other.
She writes with love and wonder of a world poised at a perilous moment: “My children, will they exist by the time / it’s irreversible?” she asks. “Will they live / astonished at the thought of ice / not pulled from the mouth of a machine?” Popa takes seriously the poet’s duty to pay attention, to seek what Seamus Heaney called “the images… adequate to our predicament”.
To read her poems is to pause again and again at the precision of imagery, breadth of ideas, and the warmth and generousness of her lyric voice. These are beautiful and profound lyric poems that will delay you, affect you, and invite you to return.
Whitman declared 'what I assume you shall assume' and Popa's audacious reply is to transcend deadlock and reveal beauty wherever her gently subversive lyric freely wanders, with phrases freshly minted in lines whose intensity is as impactful and affirmative as lived experience. -- Daljit Nagra Beautiful, musical, imaginative and blink-back playful poems. A very original voice in real lyric conversation with the self, with the other, with life and the creaturely world. A joy of a book. -- Ruth Padel Maya C. Popa's new book is an astonishment. In ravishing, formally exploratory poems, Popa wields the lyric like a reparative scalpel, evoking wonder and woundedness in equal measure: "It's plain we didn't see / the future coming', she announces. Searching for a spring that brings renewal, lamenting 'snow / that vanishes with touch', her poems register a unique combination of imperilment and possibility, with imagistic precision one can't forget: 'A faint hiss-that is / your own life now, hurrying / from one light to another.' Wound is the Origin of Wonder reflects to us our own historical moment with unusual clarity, even as its lyric exploration of psychic and social landscapes stand outside of time. This is a book I will return to. -- Meghan O'Rourke ''Wound Is the Origin of Wonder is stunning for how it miraculously balances tenderness and terror, poems of hovering anxiety and longing that also allow themselves to be turned toward pleasure. I am now, as always, thankful for poems that balance the fullness of the human experience. Maya C. Popa has done that here.' -- Hanif Abdurraqib, author of The Little Devil in America 'I am stuck in an almost life, / in an almost time,' Maya C. Popa writes in the titular poem from Wound Is the Origin of Wonder. Suspended in the uncanny amber of such a time, such a place, we readers encounter ourselves, endlessly reprocessing our own pasts and worrying our futures as the vast roiling moment corrodes both. Still, Popa insists upon, if not hope exactly, then a world beyond the hopelessness this one inspires: 'There are still things that cannot be imagined.' Wound Is the Origin of Wonder is a complex, searching collection, one I will be returning to for years.' -- Kaveh Akbar, author of Pilgrim Bell '"Dear Life," the opening poem of Maya C. Popa's stunning Wound Is the Origin of Wonder, is worth the price of entry on its own. If I'd stopped there, this book would have given me more than I'd hoped for, but who could stop? Each poem, every single one, startled me with its precision and clarity. At times I gasped. Of course wonder is related to wound, awe to pain, and 'every bright thing has at its heart a hiddenness / it offers when you've just about stopped looking.' So we keep looking. We keep going. When I reached the end of this book, I wasn't ready for its spell to be broken, not yet, so I began it again. -- Maggie Smith, author of Goldenrod 'Wound is the Origin of Wonder showcases Popa's ability to weave together rich internal reflections with finely wrought observations of the natural world. True to its title, Popa's collection traces the titular emotion all the way back to its origins, shedding light on the wound so that we may look with wonder on the fuller picture that emerges' * Harvard Review * 'In Wound Is the Origin of Wonder, Popa's elegant and moving exploration of grief and its causes and manifestations is more nuanced than simply observing that loss and living go hand-in-hand.' * New York Journal of Books * 'Subtle and gorgeous... The ecstatic language of these meditations and confessions is animated as much by pain as by joy.' * Publishers Weekly *
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