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The Us


Massachusetts Center for the Book Must-Read of 2009

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“If this book sounds like nothing else you’ve read, it isn’t. The distinctiveness of The Us from the one-thousand or so single volumes of poetry published each year in the United States is remarkable. From the first section, in which we encounter the “us” “portrayed in everyday life,” to the last, in which a tenuous order is restored to the tribe, again and again the reader is struck with the question: who else could’ve written this? The answer of course is no one.”
Brian Brodeur, Quarterly West

“The Us is a breathtakingly memorable collection which celebrates the startling things language and story can do. These poems touch on raw power in their invention. With The Us, Joan Houlihan has pushed the possibilities of poetry.”
Keith Leonard, Indiana Review

“The Us is like nothing I have ever read or seen. These poems are just extraordinary: wildly hewn, classically construed and skewed by an imagined lexicon. . . . In a voice that is elemental ancient, animistic, pre-lingual even, the speaker manages, with nothing short of magic, to communicate . . . in a language both syntactically inventive and radically simple.”
Lucie Brock-Broido

“Few contemporary poets dare brave the epic; the shadow of the Ancients is not just long but consuming. Houlihan’s courageous The Us is an allegorical epic of the first order: an affecting tale of otherness, modernity, violence, and identity.”
Seth Abramson, The Huffington Post

“Although the book is mythological in its scope, it is lyric rather than epic in its approach, proceeding not with heroic pomp and encyclopedic comprehensiveness but instead with lyric delicacy and attention to carefully chosen particulars. The Us is not monumental, nor is it meant to be.”
Sawnie Morris, Boston Review

“. . . The Us is the Twin Peaks of American poetry . . . it splits its audience into camps that think it’s genius and those that think it’s gibberish.”
The Rader Report

Reviews Online

A Verse to Self: Joan Houlihan’s The Us

Kirk Etherton on The Us

The Weekly Radar: Dean Radar on The Us

Poems Online

Boston Review

Tupelo Press

Harvard Divinity Bulletin