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Recipient of the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press
Selected by Maggie Smith
"The generosity of these poems will break open even the most jaded reader, to return to something left behind and see it for something new."
— Edward Derby, Kenyon Review Reviews
"The poems in Midwest Gothic make the daily deliciously strange—'the daily / which isn’t still at all but a whirring / gone deep.' They make us work our way inside them, but once I entered this book, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay in 'the copper-tipped town'; I wanted to stay with the delphinium, 'a choir of indigo,' and 'cornfields made surreal / in the dark.' These difficult times have tested my faith in many things, including language, and Midwest Gothic arrived just in time to remind me what poems can do."
— Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones and Keep Moving
“'My life had stood a poem / that could and could not / hold two worlds at once,' writes Laura Donnelly. In her exquisitely quiet poems, she bravely explores devastating betrayal where 'The rain made us admit our sadness.' Instead of turning away, she walks on, a walk that leads her into gardens both actual and metaphorical and into a paradoxical realization that she has not been abandoned by what matters. Donnelly’s heart carries an unforgivable past, but she keeps it open, comes to recognize the love in hands kneading dough into comfort and nurturing a garden into new growth, and finds renewal in the sanctuary of music. With what 'tended / our secrets until our secrets no longer / needed tending,' this poet of humble artistic integrity incrementally finds herself where she hadn’t known she had been all along—home."
— Jack Ridl, author of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch
"To delve into Midwest Gothic is to once again be a child with a flashlight reading beneath a sheet, deliberately losing yourself to tales at once beyond your experience and yet somehow entirely familiar. It is to witness a bookish, Bible-raised girl grow into a fierce poet who views the world through the twin lenses of beloved books and the accounts of her storytelling matriarchs, like the grandmother weaving rag rugs and the mother who insisted on transplanting her rural garden to the cracked seams of a city block. Laura Donnelly has written an intricately musical, moving account of the rural Midwest and how it shapes the women who live there, as well as an interrogation of the idea of Eden, asking whether paradise might be a portable place so self-defined 'even the angels with their fiery swords / couldn’t figure out where to stand.'”
— Jessica Jacobs, author of Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going,
Winner of the 2013 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize
"Watershed just may serve as a watershed. Or as a genuine omen.... it has arrived with all the accomplishment of a later book. Her voice feels instantly necessary, even compulsory."
— Judith Kitchen, Georgia Review
"These poems by Laura Donnelly--clarity, yes. Grace absolutely. And desire's long shot. But it's their edge that fills us with past unto future and dread's empathy, how a dark brilliant Botticelli hangs in an old-world hospital 'where typhoid once / lingered below the good angel,' or that 'the first half / of the film … sets you up / to feel worse in the end.' Maybe poems are omens, maybe not. But you don't feel worse. You deepen instead, reading this work. Like the fine musician she is, Donnelly makes us listen hard to Bach, to everything because 'the theme/is only the starting point.'"
— Marianne Boruch
"Lovely and urgent in their strangeness, the poems in Laura Donnelly's Watershed conjure spaces to dwell in and return to, spaces of astonishment held by a deft ear for inner experience and a numinous power to sense back toward the ancestral, never 'forgetting even our not-knowing,' and calling upon us 'to grasp / barefoot the breakwaters / and fossil ourselves to that wall.' To read these lyrics is to want to flesh out and stay here, woven into her artful and sensitive music."
— Jennifer K. Sweeney
"Reading Watershed, we often get caught up in how impeccably she sees, telling ourselves, Of course that’s how it is. And more frustratingly, we ask, Why didn’t I think of that? Laura Donnelly’s debut is something to be jealous of, yes, but even more, it is something to be grateful for."
— Michael Levan, American Microreviews and Interviews
NOCTURNE - SCHUMANN'S LETTERS
"In Nocturne – Schumann's Letters, Laura Donnelly explores with delicacy and precision the artist's struggles towards wholeness. Tracing the relationship of composer/musicians Robert and Clara Schumann, Donnelly asks this: when a thing of beauty is made--a form, a love, a marriage, a self--what irretrievables must enter into its making? I deeply admire this lovely, intelligent sequence."