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Catalog Archive / Spring 2024


Wisconsin Poetry Series
Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval, Series Editors
Ronald Wallace, Founding Series Editor

“Coutley’s riveting new collection spirals around the complexities of host as multitude or throng, host as spiritual sustenance, host as living organism upon which a parasite lives. These poems, dazzling in their heartbreak, slice themselves open along the razor’s edge of risk and tenderness. Here, patriarchal violence and the desire to subjugate women are paralleled by the deliberate ecocide of the Anthropocene. Here, the desires and impossibilities of nurturing are pitted against the desires and impossibilities of the synthetic object. These are unforgettable, achingly gorgeous, sunflower-studded poems that ‘scream for a brightness none of us can hold.’”
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50

I keep waiting for / this dark fist in my chest to pearl

In raw, lyrical poems, Host explores parasitic relationships—between men and women, sons and mothers, and humans and the earth—and considers their consequences. How much control do we have over our lives? To what extent are we being controlled? And how much does it matter in the end? Revealing the unvarnished pain of mistreatment—whether inflicted maliciously or accidentally—Lisa Fay Coutley examines legacies of abuse in poems that explore how trauma parasitizes bodies, infecting the text, repeating in language and image the injuries the body has been subjected to.

Ask me why

light can pour warm through a cold bay
window while water under sun is dark
as a closed door. A man’s hand

erases a girl’s thigh. The trees start starving
themselves into everyone’s favorite color.
Her darkest room digs itself

below her throne. The body knows no
wrong move. The more love, the more.
—Excerpt from “Oubliette”


Lisa Fay Coutley. Photo credit, Randy Mattley. Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether, Errata, In the Carnival of Breathing, and Small Girl: Micromemoirs, and the editor of In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy. She is an associate professor of poetry and creative nonfiction in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Author's Website -




“Host—what does it mean? This is the crucial question of Lisa Fay Coutley’s searing new collection of poetry. What is it to be a mother hosting sons, especially in a nation in the grip of patriarchal rage? To have a female body forced to host violence and trauma? To be part of the human host destroying our host, the earth? These are deeply lived and deeply felt questions for Coutley, who brings them under her fierce gaze and writes them into poems of great candor and power.”
—Dana Levin, author of Now Do You Know Where You Are

“Part elegy to the Anthropocene, part case study of internet-era loneliness, the metaphorical relationships woven throughout Host’s poignant, timely, and necessary poems are many: mother host to son, woman host to patriarchy, flower host to human pleasure, Earth host to people’s waste. Among these layered threats to the body and the planet, there’s a plea for repair, for reclamation, as one speaker asks, ‘did you hear me / agree to be an island?› Here we have a poet at the height of her craft, skillfully rendering the essential dispatches we all need to hear.”
—Trey Moody, author of Autoblivion

“Coutley’s Host pushes Rilke’s closures to new ones: to the edges of the contemplative and fervent: ‘Would you change your life if you knew / corn growing sounds like a limb slipping / through a sleeve?’ Coutley drops us into the most deft, poignant, and serious stakes to see our contemporary lives clearly, succumbing to the attentive as a possible way through. Inside a human ‘constant state of ache’ is her astute lyric that crafts the many selves one can have inside an image. In this is a valiant pursuit of an ominous present-state and afterlife for the human, the Earth, and the forgone retrievals that carry and haunt: ‘Body of our bodies, we are becoming / strangers.’ Here in the poem ‘Why to Save the World,’ we learn how estrangement is at the center of our burning questions. Host is full of these important insights and Coutley anchors us with a dictum that can become a refrain: ‘When trying to change the world, / go that bold.’ This collection insists on it, to which I am grateful for the luminosity in her and in these pages.”
—Prageeta Sharma, author of Grief Sequence

“A stunning collection of poems, worth reading again and again.”
Library Journal, starred review



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Table of Contents


Independence Day

Why to Save the World
Synthetic Love
Learning Not to Want
A Son Might Say
To the Friend Who Sent Me Goodwill Forks as a Gift
Sunflowers 2020
The Killing Game
What of the Mother
Parasitism for Dummies
Unpopular Opinion Game: A Pantheist’s Approach to Revelations
Letter to the Aftermath
September 1, 2019 (i–iv)

* *
“ ” (v–vii)
Psychodrama I: Middle-Aged Mother & Adult Son on Mount Baldy
Dear First Love—
Holocene Sonnet
Guy & Realdoll
ACOA Questionnaire
If You Just Remember the Good Times
In Love, Fridays are Best Spent Watching the Discovery Channel
Love Apology
Where the Bottom Dropped Out
The Trying
What Burning We Are, What Water We Want
Sheltering in Place,
As Vulture
Letter to November 3, 2020
Why to Feel the Host



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Host: cover depicting an x-ray of a seed, with the title text written sideways in bold, green font, visible through the transparent seed.

Larger images

March 2024
96 pp. 5.5 x 7.5

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Paper $16.95
ISBN 9780299347147
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