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Chelsea Woodard

Winner of the 2022 Michael Waters Poetry Prize

At the Lepidopterist’s House invites the reader to explore natural and mythic landscapes, examine the interiors of marriage and the domestic, and consider the bodies of animals as vessels of memory and  imagination. At times through the lens of scientific observation or artistic rendering, at others through lived  experience, the speakers of these poems face separation from places and people, gathering real and  remembered artifacts as a means of better understanding our tumultuous world. This collection is a  meditation on the ways one can lose and reimagine home, on what it means to love and to grieve, to find freedom and lightness among the weight of the material and the human.

“In her third collection of poetry, Chelsea Woodard’s gifts are in full bloom. Her dexterity with rhyme,  rhythm, and tactile animal and mineral imagery recalls Sylvia Plath’s most formidable and monumental  poems of memorial. Woodard’s craft is, in fact, so polished here as to be almost transparent, showcasing a  richness of heartfelt tender emotion, a quietly melancholy awareness of the bodily frailty and transience  that defines our shared humanity. Her blend of sophisticated technique and deeply affecting poignancy  proves that, like the goddess Eris’s apples, verse can be outwardly ‘golden and sweet’ and yet remain challengingly complex and multidimensional; the poems in this book are at once artfully formed and  appealingly free from ‘the gnarled grip // of manners.’”

–Jenna Le

“Each of the poems in Chelsea Woodard’s At the Lepidopterist’s House is crafted with subtle skill, with a  keen awareness of the etymologies and sounds folded into the vast resource of the English language. The  book has a wholeness and rightness of shape that can only come with thoughtful artifice. What makes her  work deeply pleasing, too, is that we see artifice applied so often and so well to the natural world of flora  and fauna. To read Woodard on Nabokov’s favorite being, the butterfly, but also on the humble hedgehog, is to feel more fully alive. Woodard is a poet who brings out in us both the joy and the pain of human  attachment, and of attachment to the world beyond the human.”

–Mary Jo Salter

“‘There’s always more to know / about the world,’ Chelsea Woodard insists in her stunning new collection,  At the Lepidopterist’s House. A poet ‘tasked to visualize / a form,’ she makes use of a formidable knowledge of craft and a finely attuned ear to offer the pleasures of ‘a voice holding / the true expression of its shape,’  whether her subjects are illness, book mites, an exhibitionist, an imaginary bird, or the bodies of two  women found within a ship in a Viking burial mound. If Woodard in her poems acknowledges, however  subtly, several forebears, including Dickinson, Yeats, and Bishop, she also assumes her rightful place among our new century’s voices to ‘sing // to hear the heaviness of sound / falling, to watch its fullness swell / and drop like rain.’”

–Michael Waters

Read sample poems...

Read Lisa Fay Coutley's interview with Chelsea...

Visit Chelsea’s web page...