The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner


Only 3 left in stock (can be backordered)

Retribution Binary

Publication Date: February 2017


Winner of the Fall 2015 Black River Chapbook Competition

A long poem in two parts, Retribution Binary is an unearthing of trauma and its many fractures. Baumann explores the psychological and spiritual mayhem of the loss of body ownership, how one both takes that back and can never take it back: “Hands laid on the body lay still in the body. Ghost leeches parasites of rotten wanting.” Retribution Binary‘s splinters dig deep, burrowing also into the psyche of the perpetrator. The text at once humanizes and exposes the criminal greed and apathy in him: “If the body is a crime Hell / His lips solemn His head whole / Her age is an appetite.”

In this excavation into wreckage and living with it and inside it, Baumann lays bare the false promise of “after$$ daring us inside an experience of trauma that defies easy resolution. In fact, it is always recurring, not buried, not cured, but not conquering either. In Baumann’s landscape, “The girl asks for a little place to lay her head. She will keep walking after.”


Wishbones in the head a vortex. Clouds gathered at the nape. Storm a cheap medium. Dissolution, call it progress. Her sleep a glass wall against. Her body collected against an underpass. Rain watches. Keeps score, makes it up. When his eyes were big they were so. Glassy want-mongers million-tongued stupid pseudo-beast. Give a man dominoes & he will fish forever. She shivers. The gutting wasn’t so bad. As was the living gutted. Emptiness the loudest papercut. But energy does not die. The raw blankness it feasts.


RETRIBUTION BINARY is a study in wreckage and palpable absence. “The morphology of chaos.” Part dreamscape disjointed, part gutter-bucket realism, Baumann sings trauma in a syntactically ecstatic, trance-like pitch somewhere between punk rock and opera, not to be missed.

-Marcus Wicker, author of MAYBE THE SADDEST THING,

Ruth Baumann’s RETRIBUTION BINARY operates in a mode perhaps best described as post-traumatic surrealism, conjuring a world in which “emptiness is the loudest paper cut” a city of the mind where “one thought crosses another like a car t-boning the future.” But make no mistake, Baumann is not satisfied with mere imagistic playfulness; hers is a high-stakes poetry that aims for nothing less than physical, emotional, and spiritual reclamation. Resilient and fierce in their clarity, the poems in RETRIBUTION BINARY leave me excited and eager to read Baumann’s work in the years to come.

-James Kimbrell, author of MY PSYCHIC and THE GATEHOUSE HEAVEN

About the Author

© Kenneth L. Johnson

Ruth Baumann

Ruth Baumann is the author of two poetry collections: Thornwork (Black Lawrence Press) & Parse (Black Lawrence Press). She is also the author of five chapbooks, including These Tornadoes (dancing girl press), A Thousand Ars Poeticas (Sixth Finch), & I’ll Love You Forever & Other Temporary Valentines (Salt Hill). She holds a PhD from Florida State University & an MFA from the University of Memphis, & is currently Visiting Teaching Faculty at Florida State University. More is available at

Visit Author Page