The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner


Publication Date: April 2014


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Winner of the Fall 2012 Black River Chapbook Competition

Through these 26 haunting poems, which draw from sources ranging from Dante to Baudelaire to Berryman to Millay, Simone Muench reimagines the figure of the wolf and the cento form by interrogating the possibilities, limits, and interplay of language, the human animal, and the hungry landscapes of relationship and poetic homage. Muench’s speakers confront their own darkness and mortality through flickers of wilderness and heat: “Tonight, the wolf is a solitary shadow / that spills between stone & revery / as bodies resume their boundaries. / … / Facedown, I lick away the footprints.” Through evocations of the animate self – wolf and human – Muench’s traces leave behind a living heart, a mark in the snow. Lyrical, elliptical, and intertextual, Trace looks fiercely into the animal dark to reveal “a vaulting sunrise, hissing salt.”


What do we leave, living?
Always the silence remains kneeling-
each letter a closed house.
& what comes after, looking back
on the mind itself, looking for home
as night drifts up like a little boat
or a pattern of small flowers.
There a screen of vertical timber,
trees fade over into fog
just as bodies flow
safe from the wolf’s black jaw.

First published in Quarterly West


Simone Muench’s wolf centos are an astonishing poetic achievement. They are both gorgeous and dangerous, powerful and sleek, elusive yet alluring. Ultimately, the poems are like wolves themselves-they are mysterious, we want to see them and to know them. What is most amazing is how Muench manages to construct poems from lines and fragments of other poems that are as intense, as charged, and as revelatory as a typical Simone Muench poem. I wonder if there is anything she cannot do. This is one of the most intriguing books of poems I’ve read in the last several years.

-Dean Rader

Simone Muench traces the outline of loss in the shape of a wolf. Part howl, part flower, this brilliant and passionate new collection of poetry combines quotations with memory. Muench leaves traces of other writers’ lines on the forest floor for readers to follow, path to a fairy tale in which animals swallow human emotions and humans turn feral by starlight. Trace highlights Muench’s dazzling, delirious wordplay; her poems double as musical notation, sound detached from referent that exists purely for the pleasures of the tongue.

-Carol Guess

About the Author

© Richard Every

Simone Muench

Simone Muench is the author of several books including Lampblack & Ash (Kathryn A. Morton Prize for Poetry and NYT Editor’s Choice; Sarabande, 2005), Orange Crush (Sarabande, 2010), and Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014). Her chapbook Trace won the Black River Chapbook Competition (Black Lawrence, 2014), and her collection, Suture, is a book of sonnets written with Dean Rader (Black Lawrence, 2017). She also co-edited the anthology They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence, 2018). Some of her honors include an NEA fellowship, three Illinois Arts Council fellowships, the Marianne Moore Prize for Poetry, and residency fellowships to Yaddo, Artsmith, and VSC. In 2014, she was awarded the Meier Foundation for the Arts Achievement Award, which recognizes artists for innovation, achievements, and community contributions. She received her PhD from the University of Illinois and is a professor of English at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies. Currently, she serves as faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review, as a senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and creator of the HB Sunday Reading Series.

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