Debut collection UNDERSHORE from award winning poet Kelly Hoffer explores grief, loss, and desire.
UNDERSHORE examines the speaker’s ongoing grief following the loss of her mother to breast cancer against the backdrop of a sustained engagement with the natural world. The manuscript is structured around a series of “visitations”—imagined encounters with the speaker's mother after her death. The title “Undershore” is meant to describe the location of these visitations—littoral, submerged, oneiric—a space that is interior to the self while also at the edge of the self—intimate and peripheral—like the voice. Grief comes in waves, and so the title conveys the tidal nature of the mother’s returning, her constant glimmering in and out of daily existence. To mimic this movement, the visitations occur at loosely regular intervals throughout the manuscript, the book turning with each of the mother’s returns. In between each poem titled “Visitation” are nestled other poems, some tightly-wound lyrics, some diffuse, floaty things—all fascinated by the botanical world, by the shoreline, by desire, by intimacy and grief, and by the unexpected and inevitable way these concerns bleed into one another. The ephemerality of the flower as it moves through its cycle of bloom and decay (and finally, sometimes, fruit!) compounds and enriches the tidal movement of the poems. Gardens and oceans hide things; both have depths, shades, shallows. It is perhaps their shared habit of containing secrets that appeals in these poems, which also invite the reader into hidden spaces, into an undershore, without fully disclosing its secrets.
Kelly Hoffer is a poet and book artist. Her poetry was recognized as a finalist for the National Poetry Series in both 2020 and 2021. She has taught literature and creative writing classes at Cornell University, Victoria University, and the University of Iowa. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she is currently a doctoral candidate in Literatures in English at Cornell University. UNDERSHORE is her first book of poems.