Paula Bohince, in her impressive debut collection, writes poems of survival out of the subjects of brutality and grief….Formally, Bohince's poems are tight and controlled, sophisticated and economical. They are intense and emotional without ever approaching sentimentality.
—Laura Van Prooyen, Blackbird
Paula Bohince's Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods
is a stunning debut. Both a mystery and a lyric tour de force, the collection immediately takes a choke hold on the reader's attention and never releases its grip..[Her] handling of atmosphere is masterful.
—Diane Lockward, Valparaiso Poetry Review
The collection transcends book-length elegy and becomes more than a meditation on private loss and a source of consolation….Bohince pushes through its darkest places and discovers a clearing.
—Shara Lessley, West Branch
Paula Bohince's debut, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods,
ranks among the darkest and most disturbing books of poetry published in this country in the last decade. But [her] lyrical
gifts… keep the book from being overwhelmed by its subject matter. Bohince may have done for the unified poetry collection what writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Donna Tartt, and
Sabina Murray have done with the American Novel.
—John Hennessy, Harvard Review
It's refreshing to read a book of poems where the author cares about getting the reader from the beginning to the end, from the first page to the last….And if the subjects run from nature, family, and love to lust, murder, grief and survival? That combination of immediate availability and unknowable depth can be found in a few recent books, one of the best of which is Paula Bohince's overwhelming debut collection, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods.
—Jordan Davis, The Constant Critic
Piety within shades of pantheism—that is clearly one way to look at Paula Bohince's Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods.
Bohince is, however, more naturalist than romantic, meaning that her poems above all honor their dark side, their realism, their edge. These are country matters here, incidents in the male American tradition of Frost, Sherwood Anderson, and James Wright, a fact of gender that not only distinguishes this poet's pastoral concerns but separates their power.
In exploring the "drift between the missing and the dead," Paula Bohince carves beauty from the harsh complexities of suffering and survival, the chronic hardships and traumatic incidents woven into the narratives of family and place. Bound uneasily at times to human experience, animal consciousness is also a vital part of Bohince's reckoning; even a sheep in its "comprehensible world of straw" and the "approximate bones of a field mouse" warrant her attention-and ours. Skillfully rendered, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods
is a remarkable debut.
Still Life with Needle
Paula Bohince writes from the intersection of the human and natural worlds—and she cannot afford to be sentimental about either. Free of decoration and gimmick, these are poems born of urgency and honesty: their truths are hard-won, and deeply instructive. Hers is a clear-sighted tenderness born of living fully and deeply in our complex, worn and beautiful world.
Mending by oven heat—
push-pin painted to mimic a peach, its felt
leaf dusty as the black ribbon
I used to snake through my braid
And there, wedged in the kit: an orphan
earring, opal pried out,
a mussel shell, smoke-blue, its sand loose
on the satin.
Nightgown limp on my lap, torn
at the shoulder where I leaned hard against
a sycamore, waiting for a comet,
then falling asleep,
feeling myself carried to bed, waking
with dirt in my mouth,
What comfort, these stitches like footprints
unspoiled by a body. Such pure
walking muffles the mind,
and the spray of bridal birds
swerving past the curtain wakes it. There goes
I'd say as a girl. As every
girl did in the valley.
(first appeared in Salmagundi
Photographing the Moths
Eruption at the flash: shattered light
swarming the screen door. Whitetail musk behind me,
scent of rhubarb spiked through. Ripped
wings like rag curlers the aunties wore
in girlish sleep, inheriting the hard, day-lit hours.
On the pillow, against the lens, questions of attraction,
Why moths? Why midnight?
are lifted. No one home
to ask. No friction of love against reason.
(first appeared in The Yale Review