Claire Wahmanholm and Emily Strasser
About the Books:
A haunting collection that inhabits a disquieting future where fear is the governing body, “the organ and the tissue / and the cell, the membrane and the organelle.”
“Once there were oarfish, opaleyes, olive flounders. Once the oxbows were not overrun with nitrogen.” Part requiem, part bedtime story, Meltwater narrates the awful possibility of doom as well as the grim temptation to numb ourselves to it. Prose poems melt into erasures, erasures swell into lush catalogs. Within this formal ebb and flow, Claire Wahmanholm explores both abundance and annihilation, giving shape and music to our shared human anxieties. What does it mean to bring children into a world like this one? A world where grenades are “the only kind of fruit we can still name”? Where “lightning can strike over / and over without boredom or belief and nothing / is saved”? Where losses, both ecological and personal, proliferate endlessly?
Here, a parent’s joy is accompanied by the gnaw of remorse. And yet, Wahmanholm recognizes, children bind us to the world—to its missiles and marvels, to the possibility that there is indeed grace worth “suffer[ing] the empty universe for.”
If we are going to worry, let us also at least wonder. If we are going to be seized by terror, let us also be “seized by the topaz sky and the breeze through it.” A glittering, kinetic testament to vanishing—of biodiversity, of climate stability, of a sense of safety—Meltwater is both vindication and balm.
Half Life of a Secret:
In 1942, the US government began construction on a sixty-thousand-acre planned community named Oak Ridge in a rural area west of Knoxville, Tennessee. Unmarked on regional maps, Oak Ridge attracted more than seventy thousand people eager for high-paying wartime jobs. Among them was author Emily Strasser's grandfather George, a chemist. All employees—from scientists to secretaries, from military personnel to construction workers—were restricted by the tightest security. They were provided only the minimum information necessary to perform their jobs.
It wasn't until three years later that the citizens of Oak Ridge, and the rest of the world, learned the true purpose of the local industry. Oak Ridge was one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for the express purpose of developing the first atomic bomb, which devastated Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
In Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History, Emily Strasser exposes the toxic legacy—political, environmental, and personal—that forever polluted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. Sifting through archives and family memories, and traveling to the deserts of Nevada and the living rooms of Hiroshima, she grapples with the far-reaching ramifications of her grandfather's work. She learns that during the three decades he spent building nuclear weapons, George suffered from increasingly debilitating mental illness. Returning to Oak Ridge, Strasser confronts the widespread contamination resulting from nuclear weapons production and the government's disregard for its impact on the environment and public health. With brilliant insight, she reveals the intersections between the culture of secrecy in her family and the institutionalized secrecy within the nuclear industry, which persists, with grave consequences, to this day.
About The Authors:
Claire Wahmanholm received her BA from UW-Madison, her MFA from the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University, and her PhD from the University of Utah. Her chapbook, Night Vision, won the 2017 New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest. Her debut full-length collection, Wilder (Milkweed Editions), won the 2018 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, the Society of Midland Authors Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the 2019 Minnesota Book Award. Her second collection, Redmouth, was published with Tinderbox Editions in 2019. Her third collection, Meltwater, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2023. A 2020-2021 McKnight Writing Fellow, her poems have most recently appeared in, or are forthcoming from, TriQuarterly, Ninth Letter, Blackbird, Washington Square Review, Copper Nickel, Beloit Poetry Journal, Grist, RHINO, The Los Angeles Review, Fairy Tale Review, Bennington Review, DIAGRAM, The Journal, and The Kenyon Review Online, and have been featured by the Academy of American Poets. She lives in the Twin Cities.
Emily Strasser is a writer based in Minneapolis, where she received her MFA from the University of Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Ploughshares, Guernica, Colorado Review, The Bitter Southerner, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Gulf Coast, among others. She was also the presenter of the 2020 BBC podcast “The Bomb.” Her writing has been honored by awards and fellowships including the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest, an AWP Intro Award, the W.K. Rose Fellowship, the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. She was a 2019 McKnight Writing Fellow. Half-Life of a Secret is her first book.
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