In Immersion Michele Wolf juxtaposes the intimate and the global in poems about adoption, identity, commitment, resilience, and the fate of our sumptuous, violent world. Soaring beyond the parent-child bond that forms the collection’s core, Wolf examines the role of citizen in society, the redemptive force of love, and the fulfillment that comes from immersing ourselves in the values, pursuits, and relationships we find essential.
In March 2011, Immersion was a poetry best-seller for the book’s distributor, SPD Books.
Michele Wolf’s Immersion is a complex, gorgeous book about adoption and its gifts. As the speaker in Wolf’s poems becomes a mother, she also becomes a child again, seeing the world in surprising and wonderful ways. Traveling the globe to find her child, she travels inward as well. Destiny, joy, heartbreak, redemption. How families are made and remade. This is an incredibly important book of poetry.
—Denise Duhamel, judge, 2011 Hilary Tham Capital Collection, author of Ka-Ching! and Two and Two
Immersion creates depth through accumulative glimpses at basic joys and sorrows. Music, a paced meditation, one moment in poetic time changed by another, again and again—this is the tissue of Immersion, the active silences breathing underneath, holding the shaped telling together.
—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of The Chameleon Couch and Warhorses
“We don’t write poems. We listen for them.” So said W. S. Merwin in a New York City poetry workshop years ago. Immersion is proof that Michele Wolf has listened well. At once a celebration and a reckoning, these keenly felt and artfully crafted poems—about early losses, her longtime love affair with New York, fulfilling marriage, move to D.C., and adoption of a daughter from China, plus explorations of history and the natural world—are delivered indelibly. They offer evidence of an acutely lived, well-observed, and deeply examined life.
—Andrea Hollander Budy, author of Woman in the Painting and The Other Life
Read this book like a first kiss. Remember it. From the Towers to Tsunami, Michele Wolf’s words leave us naked with honesty and understanding.
—E. Ethelbert Miller, author of The 5th Inning
Concerned with family and adoption issues, world events and history, Wolf’s narrative poems are at once taut and musical.
—Poetry Foundation website Read the entire biography »here
These graceful poems consider the connections we have with each other through romantic love, adoption, illness, and death, and examine the relationships forged by blood, culture, chance, and choice, with deft and elegant imagery and form…
Immersion begins, appropriately enough, with a love poem, “The Great Tsunami.” Not only does it establish the speaker’s connection to the East, it begins where family begins, when two people fall in love: “The wave is flooding his heart, / And he is sending the flood / Her way. It rushes / Over her.” We revisit this in other poems throughout, including “Late Bloomer” and “Tropical Drink,” in which the two lovers “never drifted far, tethered by the length of your arm, / Of mine, by the buoy of our two hands joined. / And we knew we had tasted [the edge of] something sweet.”
Immersion then moves on to the story of the adoption of a little girl from China.… Wolf also explores how becoming a parent transforms one’s own relationship with one’s mother and father. In Wolf’s case, this means revisiting her own father’s early death in poems like “Pocono Lakeside” and “Why I Became a Journalist,” and her mother’s grief at the death of her daughter, Wolf’s sister, in “The Grieving Room”…
The interconnectedness the speaker feels extends beyond her own family into the larger world. In deeply personal poems such as “Small Talk with an Eight-Year-Old,” “Skin,” “Cherry Blossom Festival,” and “Chinese New Year, USA,” and in poems with a wider lens, such as “Attempting to Fly” and “Red Cloud,” Wolf emphasizes the correspondence between cultures: we can recognize ourselves everywhere if we only take the time to look.
One of the striking things about this collection is the ordering of the poems. Each poem is carefully placed to illuminate the ones before and after and to keep the narrative moving; the result is a brilliant interlocking of stories and images that is greater than the sum of its parts (which is not to disparage the excellence of those parts). Sometimes collections can feel like just that: just collections of individual pieces. Immersion’s careful arrangement creates a larger whole, as beautiful and complicated as a Roman mosaic.
—Laura Orem, in Innisfree Poetry Journal Read the entire review »here
The poems in this moving collection take place in the matrix of redemption, love, adoption, parenting, family, commitment, loss and identity in a world that’s both joyful and violent. Michele Wolf, a highly talented and insightful poet, takes us on an inward and outward journey from China (to adopt a daughter) to New York to Washington, D.C. Using her insight and skill as a poet, and with the observant eye of a journalist, Wolf immerses us in intimacy, relationships, history and the search for identity.
Who else but Wolf would write a poem as poignant, yet witty as “Barbie Slits Open Her Direct-Mail Offer to Join AARP”?…Immersion is so engaging that once you’ve started reading, you won’t want to put it down.
—Kathi Wolfe, author of Helen Takes the Stage: The Helen Keller Poems, in Scene4 Magazine Read the entire review »here
Get immersed in Immersion…wonderful…very moving, very powerful….Every poem is delightfully unexpected, pulling the reader into the next poem. The poems are nicely crafted, tight with economy of words….Wolf has opened herself up to her readers, and provided them with a better sense of their own family belief system.
—Washington, D.C.’s examiner.com Read the entire review »here
“Can you look at one face/For the whole of a life?/ Does the moon peer down/ At the tides and hunger for home?” So asks…Michele Wolf, a poet of uncommon insight, in Immersion, her third collection. From family life to world events, her words will touch you.
—AARP the Magazine Read the entire review »here
Michele Wolf’s Immersion is a deftly organized collection, …conveyed in direct, transparent, often incandescent language. The poet and her husband’s adoption of their daughter is central to the speaker’s life in relation to others.… But the poems push outward, into Civil War history, a celebration of Chinese New Year, the imagined life of a Barbie doll, on the subject of writing as a journalist and as a poet. One of the poems on writing is the marvelous “Arranging the Books.” In this poem the writer recollects Merwin, “his eyes, a crystal blue like captured starlight.” The final lines recall his advice: “ ‘We don’t write poems,’ ” he maintained. “ ‘We listen for them.’ ”
The book opens with “The Great Tsunami,” “capped with ringlets of foam.”… The poem ends on the remarkable juxtaposition of two questions:
Can you look at one face
For the whole of a life?
Does the moon peer down
At the tides and hunger for home?
The poet’s attention to language is reflected in the…study of Chinese, so that her daughter will learn her first language, the “froth of words, that formed / The slosh and current of your life before / You could speak.” The ending is typical of the warmth and compassion in this radiant book, during which an “Asian American clerk” in the post office, “with accented English, clenching my heart in her hands, / Inquired, ‘She’s yours?’ I managed to answer, ‘Yes. And I’m hers.’ / Why couldn't she see I had become Chinese?”
There are a number of such transcendent moments, [such as] the speaker and her husband on vacation, while “a shimmering long-tailed hummingbird— / Hovered like a miniature copter in front of a blood-red / Hibiscus.” Wolf frames these narratives with a sense of portent, immersing us in the realization “in our middle / Years, how little life has prepared us for.” Her palpable engagement and devotion to writing about our human range of experience is reflected in poems that take place across space and time, in the “polytrauma hospital, for soldiers who return / Ripped apart,” or “consumed” by a lion’s “golden eyes” in Zambia, before discovering a spider “The size of my hand in the toilet’s pool.” One of the poems incorporates the book’s motif of water in a charmingly comic vignette. Entitled “Eating Minnows,” it opens with the lines “He had assumed he was eating french fries / Until he realized each of the short, golden / Sticks bore eyes.” Transformation, birth, and death are explored alongside small effervescent moments of recognition. In the poem “Skin,” the poet addresses her daughter in the second person. “ ‘Mommy,’ / You squealed, cupping my cheeks, / With your hands, ‘I have a yellow face!’ ” … “But before I could say, ‘Honey, / You are golden’ and ‘All skin colors are / Beautiful,’ you announced, ‘I’m a bumblebee!’ ”
In “Baby in a Basket,” Wolf’s description of her daughter’s photograph at four months is representative of her compelling, perceptive vision, conveyed in poems that teach us, again and again, how to be present, how to hold to the redemptive.
We were ready, with these first photos, for you to be
Cute, but not to be beautiful—which smacked through us
Like a convulsion. We study your startled onyx eyes, alert
As birds at play in a pond, tawny embossed blossom
Of lips, fringe of hair a fluffy nimbus floating above you.
—Tina Barr, author of The Gathering Eye, on BigCityLit.com Read the entire review »here
1997 Anhinga Prize for Poetry
Anhinga Press, 1998, hardcover and paperback
Selected by Peter Meinke
Hardcover ISBN: 0938078-55-0
Paperback ISBN: 0938078-56-9
Order: Anhinga Press | Amazon
These poems, in an extraordinarily appealing and mature voice, create a web of underlying connections in our random and violent world. For the most part, these are family stories—birth, aging, death, first love, later love. As one of these poems says, they offer us, “with transparent/Pleasure, the power to see.”
—Peter Meinke, judge, 1997 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, author of The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems and Scars
This poet shows us how to understand the world around us through the thrill of the senses. By vivifying the poet’s dreams—waking and sleeping—this book tastes the world.
—Molly Peacock, author of Second Blush and Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems
Conversations During Sleep feels like a logbook of gutsy revelations, transporting us to a territory both ethereal and earthy. We care about the lives that nudge us awake in this dark luminosity, a heartfelt journey we don’t want to miss.
—Yusef Komunyakaa, author ofThe Chameleon Couch and Warhorses
If a personal anecdote is set on the page as verse, is it poetry? No, of course not. Telling a good story is never enough, though hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our poets seem to think it is. Michele Wolf’s poems are different. They are anecdotal, but the stories she tells are borne on meticulously charged language, and that energy, burning brightly in every line, makes all the difference. These are fine poems—savvy, artful, and generous.
—Ted Kooser, U.S. poet laureate, 2004-2006, author of Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985 and Delights and Shadows
In a voice that is at once down-to-earth and original, Michele Wolf makes the ordinary world, and the people in it, seem curious and new.
—Linda Pastan, author of Traveling Light and Queen of a Rainy Country
Conversations During Sleep is Michele Wolf’s debut book, but it has none of the raw feel of a typical first book; substantial as it is, it might almost be taken for a “new and selected.”… These closely observed and emotionally resonant poems range over the art world, family, relationships, world events—the life they present is one lived with attention and empathy.…[Wolf’s] lucid, passionate poems…are a welcome contribution to the words that pass among us.
—ForeWord Read the entire review »here
“We called The Nutcracker ‘The Ballbuster,’” begins the speaker of Michele Wolf’s “The Kinesthetic Observer,” who goes on to detail the “Knobby, bleeding corns on every toe of the dancers.” Such are the sometimes giggly pleasures of Conversations During Sleep, Wolf’s debut collection. From walks in the “Healing Dirt” of New Mexico to trails through “Everglades and Mangoes,” this New York poet gets around.
As its title suggests, in this collection Ms. Wolf explores the place where sleep and waking intersect. This is the realm of Poe, but also of Jung—a realm of danger but also of healing. It is in this place, Ms. Wolf believes, that language and reality meet.… Wolf loves the ambiguity of sleep and waking and of language. Is the speaker of the poem real? Did the event actually happen? By pouring myth and the unconscious into the mix, Wolf creates a fictive reality in which the questions have multiple answers. As she says in “Solved in Sleep”: “I am covered. What/I need to know is/Dense, pliant, dark.”… Winner of the 1997 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, this volume introduces a warm and inventive voice.
These are finely wrought poems. Like a magician, Wolf reveals in each some hidden measure of human passion.
—Andrea Hollander Budy, author of The Woman in the Painting and The Other Life, in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Wolf has the capacity for elegant lines. In “Man with Picture Frame,” which begins “We almost missed him, although his face,/As blunt as a busy Picasso, all shifting/Planes, was wedged in a picture frame,” Wolf evokes the various senses and gestures toward aspects of humanity that are not easily described. The end of the poem arrives at that ineffability: “‘Spare any change?’ he asked. I brought/Forth a quarter. His eyes, brilliant, said/I am a masterpiece. This is where I live.”
[Michele Wolf] is a poet who uses sensuous detail and emotion to transport us to another world from where we can look back and reflect upon our own.
—The Virtual Abbey Read the entire review »here
October 1998 “Featured Book.”
November-December 1998 “Pick.”
—Small Press Review
Painted Bride Quarterly
Poetry Chapbook Series Winner, 1995
Selected by J. T. Barbarese
Contact Michele to purchase this book.
Deft complexes of sound.… Dozens of well-executed passages…and many finely made, tough-minded poems.… Of the chapbooks submitted for review during the past eighteen months, this is among the best. I look forward to a full-sized collection from Michele Wolf.
—Ted Kooser, U.S. poet laureate, 2004-2006, in The Georgia Review
Long, easy lines and flashes of sharp imagery offer up universal situations, and in eighteen poems, a clear voice and persona.
Michele Wolf’s poems appear in these anthologies.
Entering the Real World: VCCA Poets on Mt. San Angelo
If I Had a Hammer: Women’s Work in Poetry, Fiction, and Photographs
Snakebird: Thirty Years of Anhinga Poets
Like Thunder: Poets Respond