Tremulous Hinge by Adam Giannelli is the winner of the 2016 Iowa Poetry Prize. Giannelli’s poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, Yale Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tremulous Hinge opens strong with the poem that sets the stage for the rest of the collection — “Stutter.” The poet recites all the things he couldn’t say and in that mix comes:
since I can’t say everlasting
I say every
He says other things for what he can’t say. Ohio instead of Cleveland. He wants pistachio ice but takes the pronounceable hazelnut ice instead. There is a lost thing in not being able to say what you mean. But in writing, the words flow and through the rest of the collection, they flood the reader with wonder. There is an elegance in the written word and in being able to fully express one’s self. Perhaps it is like the myth that losing one sense makes the other’s more sensitive. His loss of expression in speech makes writing more graceful:
On the citronella candle, a flame glistens
like the tip of a paintbrush
dipped in amber.
It fans out, flattened in the wind,
brush on canvas—
Reading the poems I had a feeling of reading Leaves of Grass. Not in the subject matter but in that feeling of getting lost in the words as they flowed by and their patterns. There is no formal structure in the writing, but it is unmistakably poetry.
appoints its kingdom,
but gravity does not elect
or refrain; it effects
its spell over hammer and feather
alike, pebble and petal,
so each at the same rate
The poet may speak with a tremulous voice but he writes with unwavering confidence. Giannelli’s writing reminds the reader what poetry is about. Although sometimes hard to define, poetry still has its roots using language as an enchanted tool expanding words beyond their simple denotations. Tremulous Hinge is such a work. If it found its way into the hands of Whitman, Burke, Shelley, or Byron it would be instantly recognized as poetry. Easily the best poetry I have read this year.