Winner of the 2022 Washington Prize.
In masterfully varied forms, Naomi Mulvihill explores interlocked themes of violence, longing, gender, beauty, despair, and the mysterious fact of our persistence in the face of it all. These poems explore multiplicity—the “throng / we are and are not supposed to be, / the teeming / entirety” of ourselves, and the dire consequences of denying our pluralities. THE KNIFE-THROWER’S GIRL gives us reality as fluid and full of possibility in a time when we so desperately need it, troubling the gender binary and blurring the artificial boundaries between the human and natural worlds. Language and love, the book’s true protagonists, show us the way out of the dangers we have created.
“How to describe the devastating aim of these poems, their achingly certain and emotionally voluptuous address? In her debut collection, The Knife Thrower's Girl, Naomi Mulvihill shows us what it means to embody the poem as action, the poem as belief, the poem that makes sense of it all. While there's a certain luxuriousness to her language that one revels in, it's her exquisite execution of pace that lands the scissors of epiphany in the reader's chest. In short, Mulvihill's marvelous verse is, for the ardent readers of poetry, an absolute must-read." — Cate Marvin
"One beautiful—and frightening—thing about this collection is that the poet is somehow always well-situated enough to be, simultaneously, the witness and the conjurer. As we move through the poems, it’s hard not to feel on edge, even as the poet’s voice lulls with its strangeness and the language pulls us in with its precision. Naomi Mulvihill has a rare honesty in poetry—there’s no need to show off, no stretching for insights, no fumbling to impress. Because of that purity, The Knife Thrower’s Girl has the power to overwhelm: 'I’m at the age / when nothing / becomes a playmate.' What a welcome, uniquely unnerving sensation it is to read this book. If our imaginations are ever in danger of atrophy, Mulvihill can help us wonder again. What would it say about us were we to have no more playmates? What essential human momentousness will we have lost?" — Duy Đoàn
"No one writes like Naomi Mulvihill. The Knife Thrower’s Girl is genius, refined over decades: each word pins her subjects a centimeter from their jugular vein. There’s danger in her art saved by enormous compassion and precision. Unforgettable. Arresting. Vibrant. Ecstatic. Meditative. A poem about a bird flying towards a plate glass window leads to the leap: 'When I was pregnant I thought, How/Can I save this child from myself?' Perhaps it’s true that poetry is the most brutal and exacting art." —Spencer Reece
Poetry. LGBTQ+ Studies. Women's Studies.
Naomi Mulvihill was a Margaret Murphy endowed fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Her chapbook, We All Might Be (Factory Hollow Press) was awarded the 2022 Tomaž Šalamun Prize Editor's Choice Selection. Her poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, Salamander, Cimarron, West Branch and others, and featured in Verse Daily. She is a veteran bilingual teacher in the Boston Public Schools.