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The Blue Hour

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

Winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Denise Duhamel

“Like a banked fire stoked into a blaze, The Blue Hour contains the power to warm you up and burn you down. I am enthralled by the stunning grace of Jennifer Whitaker’s vision. A spectacular debut.”
—Camille T. Dungy, author of Smith Blue

Fairy tales both familiar and obscure create a threshold, and The Blue Hour pulls us over it. With precise language and rich detail, these poems unflinchingly create an eerie world marked by abuse, asking readers not just to bear witness but to try to understand how we make meaning in the face of the meaningless violence.

Every night begins with my wish
as I’m gowned in fog on the lawn:
Man in the moon, be a prince—strike a match.
Burn out the stars in their dumb minuet.
Forget the clock; let it drone what it may.
I’ll stare until everyone shatters like glass.

—excerpt from “Cinderella as Wish That Comes True,” © The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.


Author. Photo credit, Name Jennifer Whitaker is the director of the University Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and assistant poetry editor for storySouth. This is her first book.





“Whitaker’s debut collection wrenchingly captures an abusive parent-child relationship in a hardscrabble, desolate environment where, for instance, feral kittens fight off flies. . . . And though what follows is hard-bitten and relentless, with the sure knowledge that every twinkling gift has its price, Whitaker writes with a richness and variety that offers sustained reading throughout.”
Library Journal

The Blue Hour casts a blue spell, using the tropes and gestures of traditional fairy tales—riddles, disguises, wishes, shape-shifting, entrapment, escape, and transformation—to trace a daughter’s experience of incestuous abuse. With language as sonically and somatically intricate as the subject she narrates, Whitaker looks unflinchingly at an ancient taboo and the infinite hour of its endurance.”
—Lisa Russ Spaar, author of Vanitas, Rough

“Whitaker’s skills with sentence and sound, with spare yet suggestive language, with telling juxtapositions, with metaphor and misdirection, make the unbearable bearable just long enough that it can be seen, contained, and transcended. These are riveting poems, hard won, from a poet of exceptional talent.”
—Jim Peterson, author of Original Face

“Chronicles a daughter in danger, a girl trapped in the dark underbelly of fairy tales. Predators—fathers, wolves, witches and their ghosts—drag us into the dark forest of sadism with no prince or woodsman in sight. Whitaker is a fearless poet whose subject is fear.”
—Denise Duhamel, Brittingham Prize judge



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Of Related Interest

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Matthew Siegel


Alan Feldman

The Blue Hour
Larger images

March 2016
LC: 2015036820 PS
72 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $14.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-30864-3
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