a SPD poetry bestseller
This collection vividly traces the speaker’s journey in a psychiatric treatment facility. With precision and honesty, Honum cuts through the climate of silence surrounding mental illness and treatment. These fiercely intimate poems draw the reader into the boundaried world of a psychiatric ward, where moments of darkness exist alongside moments of humor and deep connection, and renders the natural world beyond the facility’s windows with piercing mystery and beauty.
“On the surface, Chloe Honum’s chapbook, Then Winter, is a powerfully quiet meditation on a speaker’s experiences at a psychiatric ward. But the book is really about the power of nature, nature as ‘conqueror’ in all of its beauty—Honum’s unromantic nature is the prism in which the speaker refracts her life, it’s a way for the speaker to parse or re-angle pain. Honum’s poems and voice are steely, unforgettable, and full of treasures. And her gifts are immensely palpable.”
—Victoria Chang, author of The Boss
“A fly dying in a fluorescent light fixture as snow silences the outside world . . . these poems name an extreme moment with eerie delicacy, so that we are inside it.”
—Nick Flynn, author of The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands
“‘Hope is anything/That travels in big leaps,’ writes Chloe Honum. Her singular chapbook leads us down the fluorescent corridors of mental hospitals, adding grace notes to the world Lowell memorialized. For quite some time it has felt like mental house poems left us with only Sexton putting on her fur coat in her closed garage with the car turned on. Yet here, hope lunges at us, as if Dickinson had decided to pole-vault out of her window. Honum takes a big leap. What pleasure to witness.”
—Spencer Reece, author of The Clerk’s Tale
Read a sample poem:
On the Stairs Outside the Psychiatric Ward
I stand with the boy with the twisted body
while the smoke from his cigarette signs its slow signature.
He leans on his cane and the cane shakes.
It is late afternoon, almost dark.
We are day patients and soon will go home.
The boy says, I got into some trouble in Texas,
which is so far away it doesn’t seem to exist,
not with what’s going on now.
All around us autumn is throwing
gold and crimson leaves into the street
while starlings are holding tight on a telephone wire,
heads tucked in the cold. And the boy
and the Vietnam vet, who has just joined us,
and I are looking up with yearning, as though
we could solve that string of bird and sky arithmetic
and know the ages of our souls.
originally published in Harvard Review Online