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CLMP Publishers Literature & Fiction - Poetry

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Without a Field Guide

ISBN: 9780991378098
Binding: Hardcover
Author: Nicole Robinson
Pages: 84
Trim: 5 x 7.5 inches
Published: 05/09/2023

Nicole Robinson's debut collection, Without a Field Guide, combines lyric intensity with narrative sweep. This poet attends to the bare reality of trauma and its aftermath, the challenge of navigating life "without a field guide / to identify who I am or where I'm flying." But if these poems focus on an individual healing process, they also surprise with their wide variety of subjects and tones, as with their depiction of a contemporary America marked by "reactionary blisters" as well as subtle beauties. At the center of the collection lies this poet's unsentimental yet deeply joyful regard for the natural world that she portrays with vivid originality. Immersing herself and her reader in this ecology, Robinson ultimately returns to the human world with a new, hard-won tenderness.


Nicole Robinson's poems have appeared in Columbia Journal, The Fourth River, Great River Review, The Louisville Review, Spillway, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of an Individual Excellence Award for poetry from the Ohio Arts Council and the Humanities Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Currently serving as the narrative medicine coordinator at Akron Children's Hospital, she resides in Ohio.



"The poems in Without a Field Guide are elegant, understated, finely wrought. Nicole Robinson explores trauma with a stunningly deft touch and enormous heart. She has a keen eye for the living world and speaks truth with complexity and compassion. Robinson writes, Like Whitman, she thinks / she'll do nothing for a while but listen. This beautiful debut collection shows what such deep listening can reveal." - Ellen Bass

"There is a spine of light which runs through this book, though the poems quite often diverge from one another, from the delicate landscapes of our threatened natural world to the poet's inner life, growing up female and lesbian, straddling centuries in America. It's been a pleasure to greet this fine and long-awaited first collection." - Dorianne Laux

"In the tradition of Wordsworth and Rachel Carson, Whitman and Mary Oliver, these poems sing of the natural world, its balance and healing, its roots and leaves, its magnificent great blue heron. I admire their images, field notes, interwoven with an inner landscape that runs the gamut from shame and regret to beauty and love. I admire their grounded honesty and the sane humility of their voice." - Joseph Millar

"When we are lost, stitched shut, when are struck, what leads the heart back, I see, are bones, potatoes, beans, wings in the freezer, the quivering leaf-flags ants carry up the trunk of a tree. Or no, what leads the heart back is the singing of. Robinson's voice breaks what's frozen into an opening. No guide perhaps, but singing all around — I held my hand and stood up — Indeed." - Kate Northrop

"I have such deep affection for these poems, which follow and lead and rend and comfort and guide me, which love me — yes! these poems love me, as I wander their landscapes of blessed damage, and my own. Here, water is a god who punches the shore in the center / of our chest, leaves a gasp of breath / to name the moment when the inhale / isn't enough, the deer learn to survive by shopping at Dick's Sporting Goods, and tenderness comes to us, clutches us, until we sing. This is a book that never flinches from grief, while also helping us glimpse raw, wild, sometimes even raucous redemption everywhere we look." - Ruth L. Schwartz

"Robinson's debut poetry collection seeks the wisdom of nature in things living and dead. The author writes with a sharp eye and a musical ear—she is just as much at home in the narrative as she is in the lyrical. Though most of the poems orient themselves in the animal world, it isn't difficult to discern the human stories lurking between the lines of grief and trauma, aging and regret. In Where the Goldfinch, a teenage girl latches on to a bird's song in order to transport her out of a distressing situation, learning to match the rhythm, / to no longer long, to leave the body / and fly to the branches, sing so quietly / the song fades instead of crashes. A transportive, serenely macabre collection of poems on the afterlife of things." - Kirkus Reviews