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The Bench

The Bench by Cassondra Windwalker $12 + $3 shipping
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Winner of the 2020 Helen Kay Chapbook Contest

The Bench by Cassondra Windwalker

Cover photo: Nika Wolfe

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The force of fiction, the rhythm of poetry, Windwalker’s latest places tangible inanimacy at the intersection of heartbreaking experience. About writing, John Prine said, “Save your details for things that exist.” With The Bench, Windwalker drags her unique scalpel into the center of a year that exists beyond comprehension. The result is an uncompromising narrative, stitched together by tragedy, injustice and oppression. —Noah C. Lekas, poet of Saturday Night Sage

Windwalker’s documentary-like precision expertly weaves a poetry of witness centering on a seemingly simple bench that operates as a lyrical thread to hold these artfully rendered poetic narratives together. “What does a bench say,” Windwalker asks readers to consider, telling us that “this testament to frailty became a repository of strength.” So, too, does the bench become a place for the reader to rest, for Windwalker has invited us “to sit here and listen” so we can “take the stories” with us when we go. As we listen, as we read, it is impossible to forget these poems, these snapshots into lives like or unlike our own, but all too familiar in our shared story, our shared humanity.—Molly Fuller, author of For Girls Forged By Lightning and Always A Body

Cassondra Windwalker records with courageous compassion how myriad lives make it through, and don’t, these days of plague(s). This collection is a chronicle with quiet, insistent moral force and lasting lyrical grace. She makes us see what’s here, now: the awful harrowings and what improbably, beautifully, remains. —Edward Bassett, University of Alabama at Birmingham and poetry editor at Janus Literary

Often grim in their perceptions but always gripping and captivating in their language, these impressive poems explore afflictions, threats, and preoccupations associated with characters conceived as occupants of benches. The experiences that haunt them and are expressed so hauntingly range from ones all too familiar to contemporary readers, such as Covid-19 and riots, to broader and more long-ranging  ones like homelessness, poverty, racism and aging. Windwalker’s many  poetic gifts when evoking those characters include diction that uses familiar words in unfamiliar ways (“her gaze snags”), an ear for the epigrammatic (“protests that have turned / a melting pot into a boiling pot”), and types of repetition that by ringing the changes on recurrent words make us see them anew.—Heather Dubrow, poet of Lost and Found Departments, John D. Boyd, SJ Chair in  Poetic Imagination, Fordham University Director, Poets Out Loud reading series, 2009-2020 Vice-president, INSL (International Network for the Study of Lyric)

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