Tremulous Hinge

2016 Iowa Poetry Prize

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April, 2017
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“This extraordinary and sobering debut begins with a literal stutter—‘Since I couldn't say tomorrow / I said Wednesday.’ In trade for this impediment, Adam Giannelli finds that, in poetry, what can’t be said gives way to what must be said.”—Craig Morgan Teicher, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

“Adam Giannelli talks to the world—to rain, to insomnia, to the beloveds here and vanished, to the stars themselves in their ‘old staring contest.’ Sink into this book as into solace and trouble. ‘Am I lost / or have I been lifted?’ the poet asks. Answer: happily for us, both.”—Marianne Boruch, author, Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing

“Rilke meets Roethke in the beveled moptops of a hydrangea, a basketball net’s ‘punctured sieve,’ a rogue porcupine (‘quilled, in dark makeup, like the bass player / in an 80s band’), all transformed, in Giannelli’s scrupulous, sonically lavish articulation, into emblems of the unspeakable mystery inside every syllable. Inside us.”—Lisa Russ Spaar, author, Orexia: Poems

“In this stunning debut collection, the observations of an often-solitary speaker explode in dazzling metaphors, unexpected juxtapositions, and challenging insights. Elegy becomes explicit as the book progresses, met in the final sections by poems of relationship. But the note of loss remains: ‘What we’ve lost swims / under the surface of mirrors’—and in these extraordinary poems.”—Martha Collins, author, Admit One: An American Scrapbook

Rain intermits, bus windows steam up, loved ones suffer from dementia—in the constantly shifting, metaphoric world of Tremulous Hinge, figures struggle to remain standing and speaking against forces of gravity, time, and language. In these visually porous poems, boundaries waver and reconfigure along the rumbling shoreline of Rockaway or during the intermediary hours that an insomniac undergoes between darkness and dawn. Through a series of self-portraits, elegies, and Eros-tinged meditations, this hovering never subsides but offers, among the fragments, momentary constellations: “moths all swarming the / same light bulb.”

From the difficulties of stuttering to teetering attempts at love, from struggling to order a hamburger to tracing the deckled edge of a hydrangea, these poems tumble and hum, revealing a hinge between word and world. Ultimately, among lofting waves, collapsing hands, and darkening skies, words themselves—a stutterer's maneuvers through speech, a deceased grandfather’s use of punctuation—become forms of consolation. From its initial turbulence to its final surprising solace, this debut collection mesmerizes. 



since I couldn’t say tomorrow

I said Wednesday


since I couldn’t say Cleveland I said


since I couldn’t say hello


I hung up

since I couldn’t say burger


a waitress finished

my sentence


a green-striped mint



on my tongue

from peacock to dove