Blessed with an ear finely tuned to multiple layers of music in language, and in the world, Holly Guran's poems delight in deep and abiding ways. She is an accomplished craftswoman whose subtle rendering of the figures of speech draw the reader into these poems, whether she's writing about the magic of the natural world, or about gritty mill town life. She never wavers in her careful attention to getting the words right, and to revealing ways of feeling and thinking that have the power to make us free.
Bruce Weigl, author of The Abundance of Nothing (2013 finalist for Pulitzer Prize in Poetry)
River of Bones invites us into a world that is rich in detail yet elusive in its explorations: “a dark channel . . . whose course is hidden, dense.” Artfully mingling a variety of forms and voices, Holly Guran evokes “those who came before,” whose tracks “form, dissolve, form again”: first her own ancestors and immediate family, then the nineteenth-century Lowell mill girls. In these and other poems, social concerns—race, war, labor, class—emerge subtly but surely from careful research, acute observation, and a finely-tuned poetic sensibility.
Martha Collins, author of White Papers
River of Bones is both Lethe, the river of dark oblivion, and the deep, indelible pang of ancestral remembrance articulated in the marrow. We know it when we feel it, and we feel it on every page of this remarkable book. It is a measure of Holly Guran’s scrupulously felicitous voice that her poems acknowledge what cannot be retrieved as a check against false sublimity, and a genuine register of what precious little can--the sure sign of a craft that knows its limits. In one of her very beautiful meditations on the Lowell mill workers, “Archeology,” the poem ends: “What/ we resurrect/carries back/so little of them.”
Austere and sensuous, lyrical and meditative, the verse so alive to its generous energies and its various voices, these poems are lipid and distilled, intimate and unforced. They sing from the hidden wellsprings of the psyche: “Is it wrong/to want you near?/I have always feared your closeness./Outside the trees,/heavy with white blossoms,/lower themselves into the river.” George Kalogeris, author of Dialogos
The poems in River Tracks, written with sensuous lyricism and a love of narrative, tell the stories of parents, lovers, children, mothers. Holly Guran is a writer who has the gift of uncanny wisdom, built on currents of memory, when she writes about people. Some of her characters embrace, while others must face loss, abuse, or death. Each fully realized poem in this collection delves into a profound memory. Guran is not afraid to look life's crises in the eye, nor does she shy from the celebrations of lovers, the ebb and flow of mysterious rivers. Detailed etchings of people and nature, these poems luminously reflect the waters, urging us to look into the depths.
Judy Katz-Levine, author of Ocarina
River Tracks forms the map of a journey through the poet’s accumulated memories, lifting what she wants to cherish and gently stepping away from matters that bind the heart. This is a lovely reminiscing sculpted in honesty. Afaa Michael Weaver, author of The Government of Nature
In Mothers' Trails Holly Guran follows many paths to “a midway place” between generations, between life’s beginnings and endings, as she seeks to retrieve “whatever memory loses / on our way from here to there.” In language both fresh and precise, tender and unflinching, she can develop a whole social history from the feel of a handkerchief bag, its “voices in the velvet,” and write with honesty of alcoholism, poverty, and sexual abuse. But it is as daughter, mother and grandmother that Guran truly becomes the figure on the night window, both reflection and actuality, past and future. Her poems give eloquence to that figure.
Susan Donnelly, author of Capture the Flag
This is a book of naming that which has gone unnamed in the lives of women: the pivoting from daughter to mother to grandmother and back to 'daughter-mother' at the end of one's own mother's life. "How everything's turning/day into night…" writes Holly Guran, "This stack of longings that reaches back." How do women accomplish what has been facilely called 'life passages?' It's not 'passages,' writes Guran, it's a "geography of departure," and Mothers' Trails is a map made of words that we need.
Aimée Sands, author of The Green-go Turn of Telling