Many Small Fires, Winner of Foreword Review’s Indie Fab Book of the Year Award
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“In this marvelous debut collection, Charlotte Pence provides us with all the pleasures of poetic tension. We have the pull of narrative and the flares of the lyric, the graceful rhythm of blank verse and the thrill of innovative forms, the contest for survival both between a father and a daughter and between Homo sapiens and other species within our genus. The poems explore the idea of survival, not only the survival of a speaker who transcends a precarious childhood but, for example, a “juvenile male bear with his head stuck in a plastic Walmart candy jar” who “learned to drink by laying down in shallow streams.” Pence’s Many Small Fires is a beautiful, necessary book. Come, warm your hands.”
–Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables
“Fueled by fascination and fear, Pence explores ‘our history and our longer history.’ From the discovery of a new species to the origin of the species, many small fires connect Pence’s poems to the people we come from and the people we want to become, all our yesterdays and all our tomorrows. Fierce and tender, the poems in this book are both mysterious and wise, intensely lyric and full of story, but most importantly they are rich with wonder and fearlessness. They seek the unlikeliest places to solicit the darkest reaches of memory of the personal past and human past, knowing ‘The darkness quiets if we watch it together.”
–Traci Brimhall, author of Our Lady of the Ruins
In her first full-length poetry collection, Charlotte Pence addresses her father’s schizophrenia and chronic homelessness through the larger evolutionary story of the human species. Questions about how we came to create communities and homes play out against more intimate questions of the speaker’s strange community and roving home. As the book moves from the speaker’s childhood in Georgia to her travels in Flores, Indonesia, we begin to understand a complex relationship between two people locked together by family, who sometimes understand, sometimes ignore, sometimes commit cruelty upon one another in competition, not just for resources, but survival.
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Erica Wright in Chapter 16: “This astonishing book takes a hard look at how mental illness affects those who love—or are expected to love—the patient.”
Jessie Carty in The Rumpus: “If you’ll allow me a last, somewhat clichéd image, I want to sit around a fire with Pence (and anyone else who wants to join us) to talk about metaphors, and poetry, and science, and everything that binds us.”
Spencer Dew in decomP: “For cosmos—think Whitman for the sense of this word, more than any metaphysician—is what Pence is after, each poem a world entire, an ecology, that delicate balance of exhalation and inhalation, air and flesh.”
Tawnysha Greene in Stirring: A Literary Connection: “…Pence demonstrates beauty that can still arise from it all—the beauty of endurance and survival in the face of such hardships—making Many Small Fires a compelling read and Pence’s most brilliant work yet.”
Amanda McConnon in Late Night Library: “Here, oneness is born not out of ephemeral ideas like peace and love, but out of hard fact: we are all of a singular species, one that evolution allowed to come together as our ape-like ancestors never had before.”
“This collection of smart, incisive essays positions song lyrics—the choruses we holler in our cars with all the windows down, the verses that leave us misty-eyed while browsing shampoo aisles—as a legitimate and deeply compelling poetic form.”
–Amanda Petrusich, author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music
“Charlotte Pence, the energetic and intelligent editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics, has succeeded in rounding up twenty-four extraordinary essays on her subject…. This is a book for any household in America where people enjoy our country’s musical wealth, be it folk, country, western, blues, rock, rap, or whatever.”–H.T. Kirby Smith, author of The Celestial Twins: Poetry and Music through the Ages
The Poetics of American Song Lyrics is the first collection of academic essays that regards songs as literature and that identifies intersections between the literary histories of poems and songs. The essayists share a desire to write on lyrics in a way that moves beyond sociological, historical, and autobiographical approaches and explicates songs in relation to poetics. Unique to this volume, the essays focus not on a single genre but on folk, rap, hip hop, country, rock, indie, soul, and blues.
Contributions are from Lamar Alexander, Gordon Ball, Adam Bradley, David Caplan, Wyn Cooper, David Daniel, Stephen M. Deusner, Claudia Emerson, Beth Ann Fennelly, Keith Flynn, Jesse Graves, Peter Guralnick, John Paul Hampstead, Brian Howe, Jill Jones, David Kirby, Robert McParland, Pat Pattison, Charlotte Pence, Eric Reimer, Jeffrey Roessner, Tony Tost, Ben Yagoda, and Kevin Young.
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Recipient of the Black River chapbook award
“In The Branches, the Axe, the Missing, Charlotte Pence goes beyond situating the personal within the contexts of science and history; she instead finely mortises the evolution of the human form with that of her own poetic form. This carefully shaped sequence reminds us that the “sizzle-spit of fat striking flame” remains part cause, part sustenance–and is indivisible, finally, from “that first word, that first word / that spiked a whole new species.”
–Claudia Emerson, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning collection Late Wife and Figure Studies.
“This poetry is dangerous in the way that we’ve always suspected poetry might be: poetry as truth-teller, poetry as seductress. Once you’ve entered the silken tent of Charlotte Pence’s poetry, you will want to stay inside the intelligence and beauty for a long time, to resist the ordinary.”
–Marilyn Kallet, author, Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press.
“Branches is a delightful and disturbing read. A flurry of allusions, of histories, of personal disasters, all of it lightened with insight and a sly, sexy humor.”
–Art Smith, author, The Late World (Carnegie Mellon Press)
This inventive and sultry series of poems combine personal and scientific inquiries regarding evolution, specifically the physical changes that enabled communal living within our species, and one family’s story with paranoid schizophrenia and subsequent homelessness.
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Recipient of Flying Trout’s chapbook award
“Charlotte Pence’s chapbook takes as its warp the Penelope myth of fidelity to Odysseus and takes as its weft a modern-day Appalachian speaker vulnerable to ‘longing . . . the unraveling of every blanket I’ve ever touched.’ This graceful seventeen-part poem is never predictable but is unified by the author’s fidelity to devastating images, sumptuous sounds, and a true and quiet voice that undoes our myths about love. I was captivated by the skill, the passion, and the ideas here.” —-Nancy Pagh, author of No Sweeter Fat and After
Set in modern-day Appalachia, this chapbook in seventeen sections imaginatively recasts the myths surrounding Penelope’s fidelity to Odysseus. Lyrical, meditative, and deeply sensual, the poems follow the emotional isolation of a woman poised between two men, neither of whom can be a part of her daily life. The “you” in this collection is a secret love, the “he” is Odysseus, and the “son” is Telemachus. Despite the absence of the lover and the husband, their presence surrounds her. The result is a poetic narrative where memory and future fears disrupt the very existence of a physical present. Highly imagistic, Pence’s writing displays precision, structure, and grace along with depth and narrative ambition.
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This college textbook applies creative writing style exercises to teach students how academic essays can be written with the same level of personal investment they might use in a poem or a song. Chapters include how to address past writing failures, determine if a thesis is simply okay or excellent, and use metaphors for all audiences.
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