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Catalog Archive / Fall 2019

If the House

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace and Sean Bishop, Series Editors

Winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Carl Phillips

“Molly Spencer’s If the House leads her to places more inward than is safe to go. Her portrait of life’s silences is fundamental and mysterious. Here is a riveting, deeply moving book of marriage and its dissolutions—between husband and wife, between a woman and her home, between dream and memory—rendered as a beautiful, complex metaphor for the most veiled and vulnerable parts of our existence.”
—David Biespiel

In these poems, well-known spaces both reassure and imperil, and language both anchors and disorients. Molly Spencer’s speakers navigate the landscape of human experience, building upon the cycles of a household throughout the seasons of the year. Ordinary places and things—a kitchen table, a memory, a beloved’s thigh—are viewed as if through the lens of a shifting, unsettling kaleidoscope. This incisive collection suggests that the imagined comfort we find in familiarity and routine belies the unease that lingers beneath.

Every last house with bone-bare walls. A fire
You left off tending. Another front door
Key lost in a storm. The slant of one night
Can silence a mother at her child’s bed,
Can starve all the songs in the vault of her
—from “Meadow | A Reckoning”


Author Photo. Molly Spencer is a poetry editor at The Rumpus and a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Her work has appeared in Georgia Review, New England Review, and Ploughshares.

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“Traces lines of the domestic that open the book up to being an existential-poetic ledger of the labors of women and caretakers, and the spaces we inhabit.”
The Rumpus

“These poems give readers a chance to consider how our own lives have been molded by where we’ve planted ourselves and who or what surrounds us.”
Beloit Poetry Journal

“Transports us through the interior of domesticity with craft, wisdom, and grit.”

“The eponymous house of If the House is at once literal and figurative. There’s the impulse toward an idea of domesticity that begins here with finding a house within which to shape a life, or try to. Memory, too, is a house here—and in these poems, to make of memory a home becomes an act just as brave and honest—and all the lovelier for both—as the poems themselves.”
—Carl Phillips, contest judge



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Of Related Interest


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D. M. Aderibigbe


You, Beast
Nick Lantz

If the House: Cover showing an out of focus photo of a house, partially obscured by a translucent window shade.

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October 2019
LC: 2019011085 PS
96 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $16.95 t
ISBN 9780299325947
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