Flatlands, my first full-length poetry collection, published by Black Lawrence Press in April 2018, explores how my perspective has been indelibly shaped by my state of birth, Nebraska.
Some writers approach the Nebraska plains as a big, empty other into which they may imagine. I understand the appeal of that mythology. But in Ruth Williams' gorgeous new collection, Flatlands, the landscape is as alive as the plains truly are, and serves as both a generating place and quixotic companion to Williams' subtle, precise speaker. Throughout the poems, Williams' images are beautifully wrought and full of surprises: a salmon being filleted opens like “a girl’s coral dress come undone,” and the "night heat” of spent fireworks sleeps in the hands of children who are “ready to knock.” I love this book—its musical syncopation, the tight, clean transparency of the poems’ lines. I think Willa Cather, the collection's genius loci, would admire Williams’ work, recognizing its fundamental truthfulness. Which is about the highest compliment I have to give.
-Erin Belieu, author of Slant Six,
Co-founder, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts
Ruth Williams' Flatlands starts from the premise of emptiness and uncovers resources for what can be found and what's to be made. Landscape, identity, desire, the past and the moment--the distinct constellation of her concerns is thrown into focus by a taut, understated craft. These seemingly casual observations break out in bursts of insight flaring against the broad horizon.
--Don Bogen, author of An Algebra
Written in the key of Willa Cather and in kinship with the spare and located writing practice of Lorine Niedecker, Ruth Williams’ Flatlands could very well be a continuation of the Prairie Trilogy. A subtle defiance circulates through these poems—a book of mouths—whose investments include the erotics of place, gender expectations, insecurity, and boredom—the "radical blah" that fills in and out so much of a life. Williams works through what it means to be from and in a place, understanding we are shaped by land and language. In an era of platitudes, I admire the reluctance in these poems, balanced by awe that our bodies may be our best souvenirs—“I don't mean to make more of it/ than I should.// We are all envelopes/ of loose teeth.” Reading Williams’ poems, I feel a little less weary about being a packet of debris, about being, in general.
-Kristi Maxwell, author of That Our Eyes Be Rigged
In Flatlands, Ruth Williams turns her surroundings into well-crafted poems that deeply explore the physical and metaphorical landscape. We glimpse youth growing into maturity through a lens of desire and the elusive nature of love. Williams’ poems are filled with imagery, making inventive use of repetition (“Radical Blah” and “Sister” poems), syntax (“Surviving on Equations”), surprising, delicious sounds (“His Georgette”), and more. Her poems wisely lead us up to the edge, to the sense that there’s more beneath what is said. A fine collection.
-Twyla M. Hansen, Nebraska State Poet,
author of Rock • Tree • Bird
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