The Spectral Wilderness

The Spectral Wilderness

by Oliver Bendorf, Mark Doty

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Winner of the 2013 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
Mark Doty, Judge

2016 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry Finalist

"It's a joy…to come nearer to a realm of experience little explored in American poetry, the lives of those who are engaged in the complex project of transforming their own gender…Oliver Bendorf writes from a paradoxical, new-world position: the adult voice of a man who has just appeared in the world. A man emergent, a man in love, alive in the fluid instability of any category."
Mark Doty, from the Foreword

"Bendorf's collection indeed opens the door to a spectral wilderness, an otherworldly pastoral, a queer ecology endlessly transformed by possibility, grief, and the unruly wanting of our names and bodies. Stunningly lyrical and beautifully theoretical, The Spectral Wilderness is an invitation one cannot turn down; the book calls us to travel with Bendorf, to study the topography of becoming because "what we used to be matters" in the way that language matters—however fleeting, however mistaken, however contradictory it might be."
Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography

"What gorgeous and ravenous rackets Oliver Bendorf's poems are made of; what a yearning and beautiful heart. 'Lift a geode from the ground and crack me open,' he writes, which is more or less what these poems do for me: break me open to what might sparkle and blaze, what might glisten and burn inside. The Spectral Wilderness is a wonderful book."
Ross Gay, author of Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781606352113
Publisher: Kent State University Press
Publication date: 01/05/2015
Series: Wick Poetry First Book Series , #20
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 88
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Oliver Bendorf was born in Iowa City. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin and currently lives in Madison. His poems have appeared in Blackbird, Indiana Review, jubilat, Ninth Letter, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere, and anthologized in Best New Poets and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. He has received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Table of Contents

Foreword Mark Doty vii

Acknowledgments ix


I Promised Her My Hands Wouldn't Get Any Larger 3

Split It Open Just to Count the Pieces 4

Make Believe 5

Queer Facts about Vegetables 7

Outing, Iowa 8

The Doctor Told Me the Shots Would Make Me Spin Silk 9

Prelude 10

The Manliest Mattress 12

Call Her Vincent 13

The No Shame Theatre 14

Blue Boy 15

Patrón 18


Wagon Jack 33

No Billboards in Vermont 35

Precipice 37

Larynx 38

Sunflower 39

Cooperative 40

Kindness Not for Anything 41

Love and the Bodega 42

At the Chalkboard 43

Thanks for Everything, Leland Cooper 44

The Woodlot 46

Extremophilia 47

Provincetown 48


The Spectral Wilderness 51

Caper in Which We Masquerade as Braver Than We Feel 52

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart 53

Second Winter 55

Inventory 56

In the Barber Shop 58

I Think I Can Finally Hear John Muir 60

This Wolf Is Going to Swim Someday 61

The Index of Everything Round 62

Ghost Dog 64

Take Care 70

Notes 72

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