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Small Mothers of Fright


Goat Island Poetry

76 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available


  Paperback / 9780807161661 / December 2015
In Small Mothers of Fright, Tara Bray draws on her experiences as a mother struggling to strike a balance between protecting her daughter from the world’s perils and dazzling her with its many wonders. The birds that fill these pages convey a sense of fragility and uncertainty, while the rhythm of the seasons provides a comfort that promises the old will be made new again.
In a precise yet accessible style, Bray writes about fleeting actions and thoughts that, in sum, create the memorable, lasting moments of life. In one poem, a woman reflects on “the way the young self rushes in” as she blasts music from her past on the car radio, deliberately calling forth the contrast between past pain and present satisfactions. It is the world of the simple and overlooked—crows, wrens, food, tea, sermons, ragged coyotes, runners, yogis, poppies— that serves as something to hold to in spite of loss, human frailty, and unease.

Tara Bray has published poems in Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Agni, The Hudson Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. She is also the author of Mistaken for Song. She is a recipient of a State of Nevada Individual Artist Fellowship and resides in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and daughter.

Praise for Small Mothers of Fright

“A book of poetry evoking all the splendor and fury of life. Bray writes with equal ease of both the natural world and the individual histories that comprise family life . . . These are poems that cleanse us of despair.”—The Journal (WV)

“Hurt, lack, brute grief—in Tara Bray's poems these are highlighted, and yet they are implicitly paired with nurture, song, and form. For every out-breath, an in; for each absence, presence. These dyads describe our life, moment by moment. Bray's acute watchfulness, yoked to her sense that ‘the world is not for happiness,’ gives these poems their stringent power.”—Margaret Gibson, author of Broken Cup

“When you enter the blue and feathered world of Small Mothers of Fright, expect to be intoxicated by its rapturous poems. Like the birds that appear so often in the book, Bray herself is a nest builder, weaving from details as precise as ‘the itch / in the crest of the titmouse’ poems that fearlessly, sometimes frantically, wrench prayers from the hunger and brokenness of the world. In this collection, you will encounter children, music, plants, old women. Pay attention. If ‘to learn is to darken,’ as Bray writes, the reader will be darkened into deeper knowledge through these spectacularly lush and gorgeous poems.”—Anya Krugovoy Silver, author of I Watched You Disappear

“Like a robin making its nest, Tara Bray’s Small Mothers of Fright creates ‘a story passed down late into this broken world,’ a place above the trees where one can reflect on the quickness of life and wonder. This is a book of late motherhood, with poems that provide a respite from ‘little signs of failure’ and marvel in the wonder of nature and renewal: ‘the dignity of shaping / what is dying into something dying.’ They create a meditative place, a welcome stay against uncertainty, where a blackbird offers hope, where prayers are written in snow, and where ‘the body [is] not a temple, but a seed.’”—Adam Clay, author of A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World: Poems

“In Small Mothers of Fright, Tara Bray writes of ‘this dark humidity, this homeland in my breath,’ evoking both the natural world—as much ruined as beloved—and the difficult histories that we inhabit and that inhabit us. Without ornament or fussiness, Bray observes and records the everyday complications, the glimpses of grace, and the hard wisdom earned in each life-passage. Bray asks, ‘Why fret if there is singing? / Why fear the story that is your own?’ Truly generous and deeply humane, Small Mothers of Fright is a gorgeous, full-throated collection.”—Catherine McDonald, author of Rousing the Machinery

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