Hamline News

MFA Alum Book Release

kelly hansen maher 375

Tremolo by Kelly Hansen Maher

Published by Tinderbox Editions
Release February 29, 2016
Poetry, 100 pages
Tinderbox Editions Website (the place to order copies): tinderboxeditions.org

Tremolo, Kelly Hansen Maher explores several years of recurrent miscarriages and the cyclical grief that accompanied these losses, even into new motherhood. The poems are autobiographical as well as mythic. Hansen Maher situates her poetic landscapes in both internal and external wildernesses, amid imagery of loons and lakes, residential gardens and city boulevards, and arctic ice. The poems carry a sense of deep questioning and fracture, and offer a new category of bereavement.

Told in sections that flow as a kind of score (complete with an overture), Tremolo guides the reader to listen for meaning in the fog. In one of the book's three long poems, “Loon Calls, Variations for Winifred,” written for a stillborn daughter, Hansen Maher uses the loon's different calls (tremolo, wail, yodel, and hoot) as anchors for sorrow and connection.

A Note from Kelly

"Tremolo first existed, in an earlier version, as my Hamline MFA Thesis. I had been working on the poems in the book throughout the five and a half years I took to complete the program. The poems in the book are autobiographical--although, I admit, I bristle at the term 'confessional,’ they do come from true and intimate experiences. Tremolo explores the grief and confusion that grew out of several pregnancy losses and new motherhood.

These days, I live in Grinnell, Iowa, but Tremolo is my Minnesota book. It's mainly set in northern Minnesota (in the Boundary Waters and on the North Shore) and in Northeast Minneapolis (my home neighborhood). Like so many people, I went to nature to heal; but my grief and my losses also became their own wildernesses. I tried to explore those internal and external landscapes in small and mythic ways. I did a lot of questioning and listening. Some of the key sounds for me were found in birdcalls. The 'tremolo,' for example, is one of the loon's four calls--it is the loon's 'crazy laugh.' Everyone knows the loon's wail, but the four calls together, and their meanings, seemed to express different aspects of my struggle for location, territory, family, and migration. Is this another way of saying that I was looking for solace?"

JUST Some of the Praise ...

Fractured lyric is an apt mode in which to translate the amorphous, humming state that is pregnancy. It’s even more apt when documenting the rupture of pregnancy loss—and the speaker in this heartbreaking, unsentimental, resilient book experiences many, many such losses. Through the rage and panic and grief and strain and deep love, Kelly Hansen Maher “asks the word for order.” As a result, the cold lake air of Tremolo is punctuated with the “broken howl” of compressed and split-apart language: “fin d lean we l earn how tow ail.” This is a story profoundly without resolution. Its reader will be altered.
Arielle Greenberg, co-author of Home/Birth: A Poemic

Beneath Maher's traceries lie grief and rage: this speaker lives the life of a mother and lover at the same time she is part of a species that can never "adapt or be amphibious." Anyone who has mourned another human will recognize the irreconcilable atmospheres of Tremolo: ignition and extinguishment, calmness and panic.
Joy Katz, author of All You Do Is Perceive

Tremolo, the first collection of poems by Kelly Hansen Maher, is brilliant. Brilliant in its forms, heart-wrenching and heart-wrecking in its content,Tremolo is an extraordinary work of art. This book, full of loon calls and crows, of northern waters, trees, storms and the aftermath of storms (uprooted trees, root systems lifting pavement for skateboarders longing for lift-off, absence of shadow and the blessing of shade)is also full of grief, howling, wild grief and also the calm voice of deep mourning. This is, among other things, a book of remembrance for the loss, as the poet says, “ of these little lives that I carried but could not mother,” early pregnancy losses, one after the other, little lives given voice in the section, Chorus Persona, where in the poem, Fifth Voice, 40 Weeks, we readers also receive the gift of one live birth, arrival of a beloved daughter, “my one bucking hero/pinch-formed and radiant, so absolutely radiant…”

Tremolo is a great work of art. Kelly Hansen Maher’s language is so rich, there’s such bounty here, showing us what poetry can be. Her book, drenched in sorrow and wisdom, unfolds in unrelenting beauty. We are so fortunate to have this book in our hands, in our lives.
Deborah Keenan, author of ten collections of poetry and the craft book From Tiger to Prayer

Buy the book at Tinderbox Editions: www.tinderboxeditions.org