Shadow and Praise


Product Description

poems by

Terry Wolverton

Poetry book, 96 pages, cover price $12

($9 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-057-2

Release date: 2007

This manuscript was selected for publication after finishing as a finalist in the 2006 MSR Poetry Book Award.

About The Author

Terry Wolverton is the author of five books: Embers, a novel in poems; Insurgent Muse: life and art at the Woman’s Building, a memoir; Bailey’s Beads, a novel; and two collections of poetry: Black Slip and Mystery Bruise. A new novel, The Labrys Reunion, is forthcoming from Haworth Press. She has also edited thirteen literary anthologies, including Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies. She is the founder of Writers At Work, a creative writing center in Los Angeles, where she teaches fiction and poetry.


Terry Wolverton lingers over words, caresses them, deftly finds new meanings. I say “Brava!” as she offers a blues song resonance to “Shadow” and a startlingly fresh, invigorating energy to “Praise.” Her sweep from “Shadow” to “Praise” is courageous and inviting-a clear spiritual trajectory.

— Malcolm Boyd, author, Are You Running with Me, Jesus?

Placing her hands on the “braille of the future, ” Terry Wolverton yet again distinguishes herself in a new genre, this time in the prose poem. Shadow and Praise unfolds its “bittersweet beat” in an end-line-word to first-line-word chain of beautiful and surprising poems. Like consciousness itself divining language, this construct delights in what it may find hidden between the “small gaps of breath” of perception. Emerging from spiritual exile, works of “difficult praise,” imaginative dedications, smart meditations, all resurrect unpredictable self-reveries. Shadow and Praise works bodily, in one motion, and like the pulse, “persists persists” with brutal elegance. Lyrically volatile, not unlike life itself, marvelous in its vision, this new book skillfully works on the mind and the memory like the sojourn art of translation: “it feels like flying now” like a tightrope walker with a second chance, cherished mystery.

— Elena Karina Byrne, author, The Flammable Bird

True to Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki’s essay praising shadow, Terry Wolverton seeks out the shadow in its myriad forms and honors it. Her latest collection, Shadow and Praise, begins with the opening line, “Born in Bomb’s shadow,” taking us right here to post 9/11 America, where “optimism [is] a lapsed fashion” and “we are ghost ships drifting through this/ lost century.” In a fascinating array of prose poems, reminiscent of Pablo Neruda’s odes, Wolverton praises everything from denial, supermarkets, and spoons to eggshells, winking, even traffic on LA’s dreadful 405 freeway. Wise, irreverent, honest (“Girly, everything you know is wrong”), and always passionate in her affirmations, Wolverton succeeds in her quest to “help me learn to praise it all/ open my heart to every blessed thing.”

— Amy Uyematsu, author, Stone, Bow, Prayer

Just when you think you might know what Terry Wolverton is up to, what she might do next, you don’t. The poems in Shadow and Praise turn dark, then darker, then wry, then poignant, then terrifying, then luminous. A series of taut, shadowy sonnets is followed by a series of prose poems in praise of everything from the poet’s doppelganger — “She borrows my dreams, returns them smudged, broken” – to traffic on the 405 freeway. Linked in sly and always surprising ways, the poems together make a cinematic whole, fierce and mysterious as film noir. “I’ve fallen so much it feels like flying now,” she says as she puts the eyes back in our heads.

–Cecilia Woloch, author, Late




Born in Bomb’s shadow, atomic dust
still making the rounds, optimism
a lapsed fashion, white panties smirched in
global gangbang, wham bam, for what was
I born to hope, ducked and covering
my moist shame. Two flag-draped blasts seared our
shadows onto crusts of history.
Now we are ghost ships drifting through this
lost century. How do we woo back
the sun we mocked, how mend our broken
continents? Shadows chasing shadows.
Nuclear tribe, what nucleus will
bind us now-our death tango, mute howls,
amnesia’s convenient balm?

Shadow of Your Smile

You make me want to change my blouse, give
up midnight to sigh beside you in
cool sheets. Your blunt hands rearrange my
frequency, quicken cells’ vibration
until I can no longer discern
touch from what is touched. I am honey
swirling helpless into bone teacups.
I’m just a whore for approval. Have
I hung my mirrors ’round your neck? Crumbs
of sweetness pool in my collarbone.
I’m sewn to you now, gestures mirror
yours. Who echoes whom? Which is the source
of light? Your weapon glimmers like the
fickle moon by which I am eclipsed.


In the midst of singing is silence,
small gaps of breath. The billowed lung soon
empties of its air. Every thing
contains its opposite: Love changes
its blouse to emerge as loathing; good
fortune shrivels to despair. That star
we yearn toward is the radiance
we fear. Haunted by what we’ve escaped,
we cling to overstuffed suitcases
that open to reveal the void
we carry everywhere. Shadow
can’t survive without the sun’s bright beam,
and Death keeps Life in its coat pocket;
fingers stroke it like a lucky charm.

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