Journal of Writing & Environment

Interview: A Conversation with Julian Hoffman

By Laura Hitt

Julian Hoffman recently gave a talk at Iowa State University on living and writing about the Prespa Lakes region of northwestern Greece. Flyway published his essay “The Memory of Land and Water” is 2010, and in 2012 his essay collection The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World won the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction. On a sunny morning at Reiman Gardens in Ames, he took some time to answer a few questions about his writing process and his upcoming project. Follow him at

Flyway: You talk about being at home wherever we find ourselves, seeking home wherever we are, and yet you yourself moved from London to the Prespa Lakes region to be closer to nature. How do we embrace where we live at the moment while also keeping an eye out for the places where we truly want to make a home?

JH: I think our sense of home is really about our quality of connection, quality of attention to the world around us. Historically of course we have always moved, all the way back to our earliest origins in the savannahs of Africa. People spread out across the world, so movement is very much at the heart of who we are as people and as a species. At the same time I think that within movement we can embrace a sort of of everyday awareness of what is there in the slanting light and near enough to taste.

The bird the kestrel has this extraordinary hover in mid flight. It’s this gorgeous floating anchor in the sky, an artful and elegant hover while it hunts for food. Film studies have shown that a kestrel’s eyes move less than 6 millimeters in any direction whilst it hovers. So for each shift of the wind the bird compensates by a forward stretch of its neck or tilt of its tail. What I find really astonishing about that is that, amidst that wild beating of its wings, the kestrel is essentially still. And I wonder if that’s how we might go about sort of connecting to places in these mobile lives of ours, by trying to be still and in motion at the same moment, by focusing intently on the smallest of things around us so we can attempt to be at home wherever we happen to be.

And I think Sigurd Olson said that, “Awareness is becoming acquainted with environment, no matter where one happens to be.” Despite the fact that we’re constantly on the move in our lives—and that movement isn’t only physical of course, it’s often emotional. At all times we’re moving, whether it’s through memory to the past or whether it’s through imagination into the future, we’re constantly on the move in one way or another. But there are ways to anchor ourselves within that movement and I think that’s the key to trying to be at home, by tapping in and solidifying our connections to whatever place we might be at any given movement. And that doesn’t have to be some large trek into the distance, but can be as simple as a daily journey into work each morning through those windows of our commuter bus. There’re always things out there worth looking at, and well worth recording and worth connecting to. And I think it’s all these small fine particulars of our experience that ultimately mean that we’re not only at home in a physical place, but we’re hopefully at home with ourselves.

Flyway: Your prose has a clarity and naturalness to it, as though it was written peacefully over tea in the early morning. What is the writing and editing process really like for you?

JH: Thank you, that’s very kind. Unfortunately, it’s anything other than over tea on a peaceful morning. The process for me varies. The Small Heart of Things was written over a number of years, for example. And some of the essays in that book emerged quite quickly out of episodic encounters. One of the essays called “Gifts,” which features a fire salamander at the heart of it, was written very quickly after that particular experience and encounter with the fire salamander. But other essays, including the one published by Flyway originally—“The Memory of Land and Water” which Brenna Dixon edited on behalf of the journal—that took me something like two to two-and-a-half years to write, because I struggled to find a form to try and bring these three countries that share the Prespa Lakes into a written text and convey enough of what I wanted to about this idea of the land and the water carrying the stories and history of its past in it that we can begin to observe through the tracks and signs and traces of the landscape itself. So that went through something like thirty drafts until it reached something approaching completion.

The process, I think, is dependent on any individual piece, and is less about the writer him or herself, than about what is necessary for the piece. And that can vary. It’s always important to be open to the needs of a piece, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself and your process, but rather try and have a sort of empathy for where that story needs to go, because I think each story has its own quite unique path, and that it’s important to try and follow that path. Of course, like any great path there are always side branches and tangents and crossroads, and sometimes you’ll be tempted down them and have to turn back, but ultimately a piece still has a kind of path that you need to kind of follow through and find your way back on to.

I tend to write in the mornings for the most part. But my work goes through an enormous amount of revision. And that, for me, is actually the most essential and the most joyful part of the process. I don’t find a great deal of joy in the initial putting down words. For me it’s actually the shaping and sculpting that comes afterwards that I find the real treasure chest of the whole process.

Flyway: Can you talk about how your work monitoring birds influences your writing?

JH: Birds are such an indelible and important part of my life. They continually astonish me with their aerial grace, and they move me with their remarkable migratory journeys. But I think the thing about birds is that they’re not just these other wild sentient creatures, but I also find them to be great teachers. There’s often something about birds that teach us a great deal about ourselves and our world.

When we first moved to the Prespa region, I began seeing many of Europe’s most common bird species wherever I went, birds like the greenfinch, great tit, chaffinch, and the blackbird. I was finding them in these great wild forests, and these vast open meadows. I was finding them in landscapes very, very different from those of London. But it was exactly there in the city that I first came to know these exact same species. Where there’re as content to nest and feed in city parks and suburban gardens and abandoned lots as they are in a much wilder part of the Greek mountain countryside. And over time the more I saw these birds in Prespa, I began to realize that these specific species were essentially at home in the world. They’d managed to acclimatize themselves to a variety of habitats and places, and they kind of sparked the book for me in many ways. I wanted to follow this idea and look at how we might go about becoming more at home in the world. In terms of the book, the birds that feature throughout it and the birds that surround me in my life, they’re the great teachers. They set me wandering down a path that essentially asks how me might go about being more at home in the world through our daily connections and interactions.

Flyway: How do you divide your time between being outdoors and writing about the outdoors?

JH: Ah, that’s the golden question. It’s really, really difficult. The written text isn’t going to get anywhere near completion unless you make a considerable amount of time to sit and put those words down on paper, and craft them and shape them. But at the same time it’s deeply important to feed the well in a way, and to get out. Experiences and encounters are the source of all we do in many respects, particularly if we’re writing about the natural world.

So, I tend to write in the mornings, and the afternoon there’s most always my usual walk up the back valley behind our house, and then on other days there are longer walks. Having said that, I’m not absolutely strict in saying that every morning has to be given over completely to writing. Because some mornings you wake up and woodlarks are singing from the hills or there’s a glorious slant of light that comes down through these thin clouds over the mountains and it’s just too good not to go out there.

So, when we talk about being open to what arises around us, I think it’s also important as writers to not be so hard on ourselves that we sit down each day at the exact same time, unless that’s a practice that specifically works for you. We also have to leave room for those glorious moments that we sometimes just discover by waking up, and also the inner need to get out there and get those legs walking. Some of the best writing in my career has come actually whilst walking itself. There have been many, many writers over the centuries who have described the act of walking itself as an act of writing. And some of my best story ideas have emerged out of taking a path somewhere. So, that’s also part of the process. It’s important to try and find a balance that both gets words on paper, but also brings words into our wider world, which we absorb.

Flyway: What project are you working on now?

JH: The book I’m currently working on is a nonfiction book, and it’s a book that’s for a long time now felt really important and necessary for me to write. It’s a book called “Irreplaceable.” It will essentially look at those places alongside those wild species that we’re increasingly loosing, primarily to development in one way or another. And these are often extremely sustaining places both for ourselves as humans but also for wild species. The book is set throughout the world, everywhere from England, to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to Greece, and there will be a chapter devoted to the prairies of the United States, the Midwest. But what I want the book to do is tell the stories of these places. They vary in size from extraordinarily large marshy estuaries that are often protected under law, to small urban allotments and gardens which have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and which are being sold off and have parking lots built over them.

It will look at ancient woodlands and it will look at sets of hills that are threatened with development. What I really want to do is tell the story of these remarkable places, often quite unsung places, through the voices of those who are out there trying to protect and preserve them each and every day. And these are the people who live in their midst and they come from a whole host of backgrounds. I’ve met teachers and soldiers and firemen and truckers. So the stories are going to be told through these voices. And I don’t want the book to be an elegy of loss, despite it being centered on loss in many ways. I really wish it to be a book of resistance, because those ultimately are the stories I’ve been uncovering. And it’s a book of love, because it’s about the deep and abiding connections between people and place that are so essential in our lives, and the connections between people and the wild denizens we share this world with. So it will bring all those things together, hopefully, in a book that celebrates place and our connections to it.

Flyway: Hemmingway had to sharpen twenty pencils before sitting down to write, and Virginia Woolf could only write while standing up. Do you have any writing rituals?

JH: No, there isn’t actually. I’ve never really found one specific ritual. I might go through phases with certain rituals. But the only thing—and it’s not really a ritual—but the only thing that I love to see each day at my desk at the moment, which kind of gets me going in a nice way, is that just beyond our house is an abandoned home across a little field, and for the last year or so, in the eaves beneath the roof, a European Little Owl has been roosting there during the day. The little owl is the symbol of the goddess Athena in ancient Greece. And the little owl in fact still appears on the one Euro coin we have in Greece. So it’s just one of those nice symbols. And what’s funny about it is that the little owl goes away sometimes for days and sometimes weeks, and I feel like I’ve lost it. But up until now it has always returned. It’ll come back for a few days and then go off. And I have no idea where its other roost or roosts are. But it’s always wonderful to look out my window of a morning and see it there. And it closes its eyes and sleeps during the sunlit days. As the sun passes over the hills just to the west of us the sunlight glows all over its feathers, and then come dusk its eyes begin to open and it begins to stir, and as I turn out the light in our room it will make its way into the world and begin its day.

Sweet Corn Contest in Fiction & Poetry

Sweet Corn

Our Sweet Corn Contest is open from now until April 20th. We look forward to reading your fiction and poetry!

The winner will be awarded $500, publication in Flyway, and a box of Iowa sweet corn shipped to their residence (in the lower 48). The runner-up will receive publication in Flyway. For more details and contest guidelines, please visit Thanks!


Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America

Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America
Edited by Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout. Ice Cube Press, 2016
Paperback, List Price: $24.95

Reviewed by: Claire Kortyna

In Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America, editors Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout bring together more than fifty writers to create an arresting collection of poetry and prose about one of the great environmental issues of our time: fracking. In the voices of these poets, journalists, and storytellers Fracture rants, raves, laments, and laughs with blackened bitterness. While all of these pieces are united in their anti-fracking stance, each piece provides a unique perspective on this complicated issue. Poised against the chasm of ignorance and misleading propaganda that surrounds fracking in America, these essays give voice to the people and the land that this industry seeks to silence. As Rick Bass writes in his essay, “The World Below,” “The earth is mysterious, the earth is alive – even as we war against it” (p. 175). This insight, among many others, opens readers’ eyes and attempts to foster an ethical, informed discussion about the disaster that continued fracking will inflict on our homeland.

These creative voices weave together an artful tapestry of protest and awareness through their strong lyrical prose, well-developed characters, and the stark honesty of first-hand experiences. With landscapes and settings ranging from North Dakota to Texas, this issue transcends regionalism and local geography to become a national concern. Together, these artists express an unwavering conviction that the economic benefits that fracking provides will never justify its environmental costs.

In “The View from 31,000 Feet: A Philosopher Looks at Fracking,” Kathleen Dean Moore takes several flights, and observes the new landscape fracking has wrought. Moore grapples with the emotional impact of this changed view and writes:

Let me try this: You’ve seen military cemeteries near battlefields, with closely ranked rows of crosses as far as you can see in any direction, yes? And you think my God, how is this possible, that humans could do this to one another? Now imagine that you’re in that cemetery, and it’s night, and all those crosses suddenly burst into flame – flames, flaring the methane from drilling rigs, closely ranked rows of flames as far as you can see in every direction. You think, my god, how is this possible, that humans could do this to the Earth? (p. 83)

Moore’s analogy reminds readers of an often-ignored truth: the destruction of our landscape spells our own. Our lives are not separate from the life of the land whose bounty we thoughtlessly plunder, always seeking the quickest fix. The essays and poems in Fracture are eyewitness accounts, testaments, and well-written engaging stories. The writing is stark; it resonates. Respect and love of one’s place flow underneath the collection’s hard-hitting accounts of ruined prairies and poisoned gulfs.

To read this book demands patience and time. Each piece requires savored consideration and weighted digestion. Fracture cannot, and most likely should not, be devoured. It cannot be consumed in long, sustained sittings. Instead, it should be picked up, read, and placed down, again and again, time after time. Each new piece stacks upon the others like bricks of revelation that sit heavily with the reader, percolating long after they finish the book. Claire Krüesel, in her poem “Surfacing,” writes, “The North Dakota Indian Reservations / no longer reserve much, decorous / as charred lace. / The Bakken’s fiery tongues / punctuate uncertain fields, hungry now” (p. 161). In such a substantial collection, where many essays include hefty amounts of startling research, statistics, and information, poems like Krüesel’s come as a breath of fresh air – a more imagistic rumination on the realities of this environmental blight.

Fracture emerges in the tradition of other environmentally focused collections such as Terry Tempest Williams and Stephen Trimble’s Testimony and Rick Bass and David James Duncan’s The Heart of the Monster. In a sea of pro-fracking politicization, Fracture seeks to show readers that there is another facet to this seemingly one-sided discussion. It serves as a sounding alarm for the mute landscape fracking abuses and calls for a more responsible re-imagining of energy resources.

Overall, this collection fulfills an important role: it provides an essential perspective in the heated conversation about our nation’s resources in a way that fosters environmentally ethical discussion. It covers a remarkable range of material in a variety of narrative forms, and each of these renderings, for the most part, provide their own unique insights. The sheer volume of contributors however, while evidence the incredible importance of this topic, makes the collection feel dauntingly dense at times. And for those whose beloved landscapes are not echoed in these essays, maintaining an established emotional investment may be a struggle. But the essential message of this impressive book remains universal: people care about their environment – the one that fracking is harming – and it’s time for America to pay attention.



Notes from the Field: 2015

“Notes from the Field” is a non-fiction contest celebrating writing about vivid experience–whether abroad, at home, in your line of work, or in any other unexpected environment.

Submit one (1) work of creative nonfiction, five thousand words maximum. Submission must be author’s own work and must be previously unpublished. Winning and runner-up selections will be announced late December and will be published in Flyway thereafter. For more information, please visit our Submittable page.

notesfromthefield_poster (1) copy

Congratulations to our Sweet Corn winners

Flyway would like to congratulate the winners of this year’s Sweet Corn prizes in fiction and poetry!

Out of a competitive field of short fiction, guest judge Daniel Wallace chose Rachel Richardson’s poignant story “What’s It Like Outside” as winner, and John Yunker’s dystopian “Free Range” as runner-up.

Meanwhile, poetry judge Ned Balbo chose Mark Jay Brewin Jr.’s “The Weems Storm Glass Mysterious Weather Predictor” as winner and Lesley Wheeler’s “A Million Violins” as runner-up.

Richardson’s short story presents a multifaceted view of a high school prom disrupted by a tornado. Wallace wrote, “The writing, sentence for sentence, is smart, and sharp, and beautiful without drawing attention to just how beautiful it is. In less than a couple of thousand words the author creates a very big world, full of characters I feel like I know now. If you dropped this story in a glass of water it would expand into a novel.”

About “Free Range,” he wrote, “I loved the casual way the author wrote about one of our scary potential futures, and did it without being very didactic. In the end it was about what all good stories are about: what it’s like to be alive on this planet, no matter when, no matter where.”

Brewin’s winning poem also tells a story: About a weather prediction device used by Admiral Robert FitzRoy on his 1831 voyage to the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle with a young Charles Darwin. Balbo wrote, “A perceptive, witty exploration of science and mysticism through a device that predicts the weather—sudden shifts not only of climate but in time’s passage and history’s whims. We are all ‘wayfarers’ who seek connection to the cosmos, and we accept guidance wherever we find it—even if what we thought was the magic of belief turns out to be only ‘seawater and cloud-smoke.’ Richly inventive and resonant.”

Meanwhile, Balbo described Wheeler’s piece as “a powerful poem that intertwines the grief of sisters facing decisions about a father’s terminal illness. Through a cell phone call that connects them across the miles—from the faraway concert one has left temporarily, to the back deck of a home where the other takes the dreaded call—the poem convincingly examines the complexity of farewells we hope to never make.”

Flyway would like to thank all of this year’s entrants, a competitive field whose work explored the many facets of environmental writing.

Look for the winning stories and poems in the fall edition of Flyway.

Web Rove: Writing About Climate Change

by Kristen Daily

Earth Day just passed—Wednesday, April 22. As one of the largest civic holidays around the globe Earth Day is day to celebrate our planet and to rekindle public commitment and activism to saving the earth. Today’s web rove honors several voices seeking to save the places, plants, and animals they love.

Carbon Capture” by Jonthan Franzen (from The New Yorker)

In this essay Franzen explores how climate change has made it harder for people to care about conservation. In the following passage he examines his own struggle in grappling with climate change: “But when I started watching birds, and worrying about their welfare, I became attracted to a countervailing strain of Christianity, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s example of loving what’s concrete and vulnerable and right in front of us. I gave my support to the focused work of the American Bird Conservancy and local Audubon societies. Even the most ominously degraded landscape could make me happy if it had birds in it. And so I became to feel miserably conflicted about climate change. I accepted its supremacy as the environmental issue of our time, but I felt bullied by its dominance.”

While Our Backs Are Turned” by Clarisse Hart (from Ecotone)

In this essay Hart writes about her home, Petersham, Massachussetts, which is home to old hemlock forests. As a science communicator, Hart recounts her experience her experiences giving tours in the Harvard Forest, but her essay is an elegy for the disappearing trees. In this passage she describes what it is like to walk into a hemlock grove: “Even if you don’t spend much time with trees, even with your eyes closed, you’re aware when you enter a hemlock forest that you’ve arrived somewhere new. It’s ten degrees cooler than surrounding forests, for one thing, because of the dense shade: only 1 percent of the sun above an intact hemlock canopy reaches the ground at your feet.”

section b, page 6” by Meryl Stratford (from Rattle)

In this poem Stratford responds to the story “Horseshoe crab faces threats from pollution, development” as a part of Rattle’s online series Poets Respond in which poets address current events. “section b, page 6” asks readers to consider the effects of human desire and consumption on the life of the horseshoe crab. The horseshoe crab was here long before we were, and Stratford calls readers to consider their lives, which have been happening across deep time. “Now they’re making the news: / how we use them as bait, grind them up / for fertilizer, destroy their habitat / but their ancient blood detects endotoxins, / makes possible our flu shots, /pacemakers, and hip replacements.”

2015 Sweet Corn Prizes in Fiction and Poetry: Now Open

sweet corn postcard web

Deadline extended to April 20!

Flyway’s annual Sweet Corn contest is now open for submissions!

New this year, Flyway is accepting submissions in poetry and short fiction for the annual contest. Winners in both genres receive a $500 prize, publication in Flyway, and a box of organic Iowa sweet corn. Runners-up receive $50 and publication.

Our guest fiction judge this year is Daniel Wallace, author of five novels, including Big Fish (1998), which was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Tim Burton and starring Ewan McGregor. Wallace is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he directs the Creative Writing Program.

Our inaugural guest poetry judge is Ned Balbo, author of three books of poetry:  Galileo’s Banquet (1998), which shared the Towson University Prize for Literature; Lives of the Sleepers (2005), which won the Ernest Sandeen Prize; and The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems (2010), selected for the Donald Justice Prize and the 2012 Poets’ Prize. Balbo taught for 24 years in Loyola University’s writing program, and is currently a visiting professor in the creative writing program at Iowa State University, Flyway’s base of operation.

The Sweet Corn prize recognizes exceptional fiction and poetry with a focus on the intersection of human experience and the environment—works that examine place, natural and built environments, landscapes and cityscapes, and the ways that people transverse them. We’re happy to read work that explores environmental issues, but also seek writing that interprets environment more broadly—the places people live and work, travel to and from, inhabit and transcend. Most of all, we’re looking for work that moves us, that gives us a fresh lens with which to view the world. Want to hear more? Read the winning essay from our 2014 Notes from the Field non-fiction contest, “House Blend” by Susannah Clark, which examines the author’s place in a gentrifying Boston neighborhood in the wake of the Marathon bombings.

Submit short fiction of up to 5,000 words or up to three poems (as a single document) to the contest. Enter author’s name, bio and contact information through Submittable’s cover page; author name should not appear anywhere on the submission. Entry fee is $12. Contest closes April 16 April 20.

Submit online at, and read our latest issue at!

Visit Flyway at AWP!

Flyway is at AWP in Minneapolis April 8-11! If you’re planning to make your way to the Twin Cities for this year’s conference, stop by our booth, number 1314 in the Bookfair area, for a chance to meet our editors, read rare back issues of the magazine, and enjoy some caramel corn in honor of our Sweet Corn contest (deadline April 16). And don’t miss our tribute to Flyway founding editor Steve Pett today at 4:30!

Web Rove: Celeb Short Stories: An Effective Therapy for Drunk-searching?

By Meghann Hart

Have you recently spent several hours—more than two, fewer than five—drunk-searching (yes, this is a verb) the Internet for something worthy of your abysmally short attention span? It’s about 2:00 AM, and you know you could be doing something more productive with your life, but you don’t or you can’t—but, really, you won’t. You’ve read at least ten BuzzFeed posts about the infinite health benefits available to those who quaff lemon water intravenously, sleep in the buff, or go paleo. In your darker moments, you’ve watched ten consecutive slide shows that document the thirty-five worst celebrity boob jobs in history, but celebs are doing far more than getting bad boob jobs, folks. A couple of them are writing short stories—that you should read. Good ones. Really. Here they are:


Book Review: The River Won’t Hold You

The River Won’t Hold You

by Karin Gottshall

The Ohio State University Press, December 2014

Paperback or e-book: $16.95


Review by Camille Meyers

An intimate and haunting collection of poetry, The River Won’t Hold You by Karin Gottshall explores the human experience of loneliness and connection with others. She writes in a quiet way, folding the reader in a warm blanket of words. From “Parochial:” “Was I a person who would / one day reach forty: a question I sometimes asked / the oven. Putting on my underwear every morning / (whales harpooned for the bones against the bones / of my great-grandmother, her own soft and lonely mother).” With such precise imagery and clarity of voice, it is no wonder that Gottshall’s second book won the 2013 The Journal Award in Poetry from The Ohio State University Press.

The opening poem “Forecast” sets the theme of the collection. A “sham fortune-teller sat / turning over cards, saying you will be lonely—” to the speaker who thinks “loneliness / is nothing more than a cotton slip // and uncombed hair” and invites it to begin. With this boldness, and perhaps naiveté, the reader enters the first section, stepping onto a path of poems winding through childhood and growing into womanhood. Gottshall avoids slipping into nostalgia or sugar coating youth. Instead her poems reflect growing pains, such as “Lesson,”

that tender purchase of dart in flesh

allowing him to reel her bleating back

along a taut line of animal pain

she couldn’t unfasten from—at some

point along that axis humming casual

violence (and his boy heat and her blood

just beginning to bubble under the barb),

a false idea she had about this world

and her position in it was corrected.

Often, a line break leads to a surprising turn adding layers of meaning. The poem “Translation” starts: “If I were tasked with inventing a language, / I would coin a term for the feeling of being called / by a different woman’s name. There’s another word / I wish existed, for the realization that it doesn’t / matter.” With this deftness of language, she gently writes about loneliness avoiding self-pity, depression, or glorification. This theme carries on through the second section even when the speaker is surrounded by other people or in the arms of a lover. A sense of seeking companionship or an understanding of self seeps into the poems, such as “More Lies,”

I like a place that’s lit by lamps. I like a place

where you can hear people talk about small things,


like the difference between azure and cerulean,

and the price of tulips. It’s going down. I watched

someone who could be my sister walk in, shaking the rain


from her hair. I thought, even now florists are filling

their coolers with tulips, five dollars a bundle. All over

the city there are sisters. Any one of them could be mine.


Ghosts dance in the margins of the book’s third section with poems like “Ghost Story,” “Tell your phone to stop calling me,” and “Afterlife.” Hints of death pepper the entire book, but the collection ends with an acceptance of mortality and that long ago forecasted loneliness. While most of Gottshall’s poetry is narrated in first person, “Listening to the Dead” makes a small departure:

I’ve come unstitched, says the rabbit in the orchard, belly

torn open by dogs. Maggots have come to sew me back


into earth. All around, the softening apples

drop when the wind blows and at night deer approach

and lower their slender necks to eat.

Gottshall leaves the reader with haunting imagery, like showing tenderness to a shot buck in “Operative,” or stepping into a display of taxidermy wolves renewed to life in “Diorama,” “Or you step up, / into that stage-prop forest, under the colored arch // of the long-ago sky, and walk at last into your actual life.” The River Won’t Hold You takes that bold step, and with a clear voice and honest eyes, walks into the reader’s life.