Recipient of the 2015 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
Penumbra—Michael Shewmaker’s debut collection—explores the half-shadows of a world torn between faith and doubt. From intricate descriptions of the rooms in a dollhouse, to the stark depiction of a chapel made of bones, from pre-elegies for a ghostly father, to his compelling treatment of his obsessed, human characters (a pastor, a tattoo artist, a sleepwalker, to name only a few), these are poems that wrestle with what it means to believe in something beyond one’s own mortality. Learned and formally adept, these poems consist of equal parts praise and despair. They announce Shewmaker as an important new voice in American poetry.
“At first sight, these are poems lighted by curiosity and a deft music that brings the world to our door: A curlew at sunset. Two men in a bar. An unsettling dream. But what gives this collection its real power is the shadow of something beyond that world: of a struggle to find a shape that is also a meaning. To engage—in the words of the final poem—“the steep price of briefly becoming light.” It is this reach, this rare ambition which makes this debut collection both memorable and compelling.” —Eavan Boland, author of A Woman Without a Country