Erin Coughlin Hollowell is a poet and writer who lives at the end of the road in Alaska. Prior to landing in Alaska, she lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns, pursuing many different professions, from tapestry weaving to arts administration. She earned her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in 2009. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska. Her work has most recently been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Weber Studies, Terrain: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environment, and Sugar House Review.
Across distance, the speaker of these poems wrestles with the way her mother’s loss of memory changes the narrative between them. By interrogating the past, fissures in language, and the vagaries of identity, the speaker comes to a recognition that we are all more alike in our humanity than we are different.
“With clarity and grace, Erin Coughlin Hollowell cleaves into the liminal spaces between living and merely existing, between the past and forgetting, between mother and daughter, and brings us these hard-won and resilient gifts from her journey. Every Atom is a book that you need to read, because in it are the poems that matter.”—Kevin Goodan, author of Let the Voices
“Erin Hollowell has written a stunning and beautiful tribute to a mother as she slips away into loss of memory and belonging in a body and family. And yet the richness of relation here ‘wreckage and tenderness’ is a balm for the losses we all know we will suffer on behalf of those who have given us our lives and for our very selves. ‘Saint Crow,’ she writes, for darkness is indeed an entrance into the holy in these wise and nourishing poems.”—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Stairway to Heaven
“There comes a moment in every Erin Coughlin Hollowell poem when the heart threatens to burst open and spill light.”—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter
Pause, Traveler is a journey through the dark heart of the American landscape, from New York City to Alaska. These poems search for redemption in the most unlikely places: Circus World Museum, an Iceworm Festival, a frozen gas station in Alaska. Traversing the difficult terrain of damaged relationships and misplaced affection, this collection finds hope in the fractured beauty of the world.
“Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler is a brave book, full of poems that find not much to hang onto in this shaky and often dark world, but they hang on anyway, with a fierce joy. Inside each of them is the tension of ‘a crust, a crypt, a bomb,’ but every day arrives new, with its hopes. There’s the Iceworm Festival in the dead of an Alaskan winter: ‘Heck, why not?’ she writes. A man with a brain tumor is crowned ‘Citizen of the Year,’ the Girl Scouts sing, and the night is lit from the inside. Reading these poems, I begin to be grateful for what’s cracked, what’s broken, and grateful for Hollowell’s eye that looks straight at it all, and makes of it these splendid, clear poems.”—Fleda Brown, Poet Laureate of Delaware emeritus, author of Reunion, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize
“The beautiful but often psychologically searing poems of Erin Coughlin Hollowell’s Pause, Traveler recall Robert Frank’s book of photographs, The Americans. In poem after poem, Hollowell draws portraits of the kind of nearly gutted American soul Frank saw as he crossed the continent to take so many of his famous portraits. Her careful predication, sharp lineation, and spare but agonizing imagery takes each poem far into the soul of a human being who is in hardscrabble transition.”—Kevin Clark, author of Self Portrait with Expletives