Amanda Larson's first book, Gut, is the winner of the 2020 Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Prize, and of the 2022 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America.
Praise for Gut
Gut is a daring book of poetry that reminds us of Plato’s arguments. Amanda Larson follows thought, reason, and logic to show that none of these make sense of assault or abuse: “Before those things happened to me, I had been trying to argue my way out.” And yet, this is not one of the philosopher’s dialogues. This is poetry that takes risks in form and content such that everything about it is unexpected. The plain-spoken nature of Amanda Larson’s admissions here are buoyed by her unflinching commitment to craft in sentences, in lines, and in Q&As. But be warned: this is not an easy read. It is, instead, a necessary read. I find much of the work here frightening. And I find that because the truth will scare us. This is a stunning debut.
-Jericho Brown, judge of the 2020 Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Prize
Amanda Larson’s remarkable debut could easily have taken one of its epigraphs from Emily Dickinson: “As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow – / First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –” However, like the author of those lines, Larson refuses to do things the easy way. Her book’s weather is the hurricane’s eye. Methodically unsentimental in its examination of trauma and recovery (“I maintain no desire to be the person I was before”), Gut feels radical not so much for what it discloses or withholds, but for how rigorously it establishes the terms under which it will speak, and with whom: “There are some things, in doing, we cannot be expected to say.” A book powered by intelligence, restraint, and the odd lightning-strike of bleak, cauterizing wit, Gut calls out equally to readers who would turn to poetry as a means of making sense of suffering, and to those who experience poetry as a force radiating in all directions at once, a force that indulges neither turning to nor turning away.
-Mark Bibbins, judge of the 2022 Norma Farber First Book Award
Amanda Larson’s Gut is a tremendous poetry book. Sharp and precise, this collection — which is both essay and poem, self-elegy and self-interrogation — highlights the epistemological anxiety of the mind after trauma. Memory serves as a lens through which the self and desire are scrutinized and mourned; at the center of this formally inventive debut is the body, which, once violated, guts open consciousness, and creates an excruciating, slippery unraveling. Larson’s poems are an attempt to revisit, reorder, and restore something psychologically intricate and painful. The result is a beautiful, moving, and singular debut. Gut announces a surprising, cerebral, and essential new poetic voice.
-Aria Aber, author of Hard Damage
I would pay attention to Amanda Larson. She's the real deal.
-Alex Dimitrov, author of Love and Other Poems
Amanda Larson’s debut collection Gut is more than a dazzling rejection of silence or the yield on some annihilating trauma, but frankly a revelatory performance of a rapacious intellect in consort with a body that values more than what the world can offer. Such palpable and vulnerable language is the aftermath of courage and beauty and open dreams.
-Major Jackson, author of The Absurd Man
Imagine the story of a sexual trauma told solely by what happened to its victim afterward -- not physically but philosophically. It sounds improbable, but although the speaker never depicts or describes the violence, and refuses to aestheticize it, she isn't being coy; she's merely telling the story in a way that makes the perpetrator irrelevant. Read this book and watch its so-called victim become powerful.
-Sarah Manguso, author of 300 Arguments
Winner of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Prize, selected by Jericho Brown, Larson’s debut interrogates life after trauma in quietly penetrating verse that frequently cites leading feminist critics like Eve Sedgwick and bell hooks. As such, it’s stylistically distinctive, almost essay-like, with Larson reflecting poignantly on how to reclaim her body and control of her life after sexual assault (“But what do you do if it is terrifying to move?”). As she bravely unfolds her ardent before and her shattered afterward, she challenges herself with a string of questions (“What type of recovery is this?”).
VERDICT: The violence is omnipresent yet held at bay; the poet gifts us (and herself) with her story. For smart poetry readers and anyone interested in feminist issues.
-Barbara Hoffert for Library Journal
Amanda Larson is a writer from New Jersey. She is a graduate of Scripps College in Claremont, California, and of New York University's MFA Program, where she taught undergraduates. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in fugue, Washington Square Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Adirondack Review, and other publications. She currently teaches at Cedar Crest College, CUNY, and the Dalton School.
"Jeffrey" and "The Lamb," published in fugue
Interview with Garth Greenwell, forthcoming in Washington Square Review
Photo by Justin Lee Studio