Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler, is a brave book, full of poems that find not much to hang onto in this shaky and often dark world, but they hang on anyway, with a fierce joy. Inside each of them is the tension of “a crust, a crypt, a bomb,” but every day arrives new, with its hopes. There’s the Iceworm Festival in the dead of an Alaskan winter: “Heck, why not?” she writes. A man with a brain tumor is crowned “Citizen of the Year,” the Girl Scouts sing, and the night is lit from the inside. Reading these poems, I begin to be grateful for what’s cracked, what’s broken, and grateful for Hollowell’s eye that looks straight at it all, and makes of it these splendid, clear poems.
― Fleda Brown, former Delaware Poet Laureate, author of Reunion (Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry)
“There is a place where conversation ends. / Where a person becomes a locked door, Erin Coughlin Hollowell writes. And I think, yes, exactly, because this is where her poems pick up, dusting the outline of things left unsaid or unsayable. Densely packed as glacial ice, her short lines carry weight of many worlds—the charged desire and loneliness of a New York subway, the stale coffee of a South Dakota truck stop, a woman in a family photo who smells of breast milk, maples leaves / and the dirty fingerprints of boys. Finally, we are led home to a place alive with sandhill cranes and kelp and sea lions. Here you have a woman who has traveled far and has paid attention. I am grateful to be able to journey with her.”
― Nickole Brown, author of Sisters
The beautiful but often psychologically searing poems of Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler recall Robert Frank’s book of photographs The Americans. In poem after poem, Hollowell draws portraits of the kind of nearly gutted American soul Frank saw as he crossed the continent to take so many of his famous portraits. Her careful predication, sharp lineation, and spare but agonizing imagery takes each poem far into the soul of a human being who is in hardscrabble transition.
― Kevin Clark, author of Self Portrait with Expletives (Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series Book Competition winner)
Take a journey with a women coming into her own. The poems contained in Pause, Traveler, Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s first book range from cautionary tales to illuminations realized in the noisy hustle of Grand Central Station, to the self seen reflected back in a stranger’s eyes while getting in a cab. These poems are tender in their portrait of other lives, self-reverential and forgiving to one’s younger, innocent self and grateful for the painful lesson learned along the road to love and the final finding of a true home.
― Tina Shumann, author of As If, winner of the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize
Erin Hollowell’s first book of poetry is so exquisitely wrought that you’ll be tempted to read the entire book at one sitting. So go ahead and do that, but then go back and savor it again, and again. As a whole the poems chart a life full of attention to detail, whether it’s a gritty look at New York City streets (“Subway doors sever here/from there) or snapshots of a cross-country trip (“A woman rearranges her cigarettes, checks her hair/in the distortion of the tabletop jukebox”) or fresh images of wild Alaska (“Along the shore, bare alders rankle./ The wingbeat of my heart shallows/over the shattered slate water.”) Above all, it’s a love story – of human relationships and, even more strikingly, of the poet’s relationship to the world she travels within and settles deeply into: “Everything is cracked./ Nothing is perfect./…If we knew how the story ended,/how could we keep living it?”
― Marybeth Holleman, author of Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal and Heart of the Sound