Selected Praise

Praise for THE THIN WALL

“In books that are as demanding as they are beautiful, Martha Rhodes has been mapping the psychic terrain of family life and romantic life in contemporary America. The way we are betrayed by others, the way we betray ourselves, the way love is both harbor and harm, the way memory is both a form of elation and of wounding—Rhodes looks at our instances of extremity and somehow turns them into bittersweet lyric utterance. Spare and unsparing, The Thin Wall is Rhodes doing her most powerful work so far.”
—Rick Barot

“The Thin Wall—between care and resentment, protectiveness and rage, betrayal and abandonment—marks the furious, vital poems in Martha Rhodes’s fifth collection. These poems enact a fierce reckoning with families rent from within or without, trailing attempts at refuge like ripped streamers from a cut-rate lot: no one escapes the creosote of The Thin Wall’s collapse. Martha Rhodes has long been one of our finest poets, and now she has written her best and most moving book.”
–Susan Wheeler


Praise for AT THE GATE

The power of this first collection derives from an intense emotional time-line compressed and forced into spare, incantatory poems.
—Mary Jo Bang, Boston Review

To read At the Gate is to realize slowly the gravity behind what is being said and then to marvel at the fortitude and grit that assembled the lines into a gift of carefully finished poems.
—Joyce Wilson, Harvard Review

These short poems, by turn savage, wry, mordantly witty, tender, stern, deluded, sane, read like a series of fragments, bits of mosaic; they duplicate on the page the sense of a past’s being, piece by piece, recovered; they convey, devastatingly, the moment of a pattern’s emerging: the little scenes and vignettes, the suspect tools of memory, cohere heart-stoppingly and absolutely into a narrative which fuses the damaged body to the divided heart.
—Louise Glück, from “The Forbidden from Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry,” (The Ecco Press)

Martha Rhodes emerges to the first rank with a collection that not only promises, but delivers and downright routinely amazes…This is a book of immense vitality and beauty. Rhodes deserves our highest praise, but more importantly, her work deserves our deepest attention.
—Jon Lavieri, Small Press Review



If poetry’s task is to bring disorderings to a fierce control, then this book is a powerful achievement… the lucid understatements are more resonant than speech, and the details and gestures precisely barbed to fix in the reader’s mind. This is a haunted and haunting first collection.
—Gregory Orr, The Virginia Quarterly Review, 1996

The poems in Martha Rhodes’ evocative second collection, Perfect Disappearance, persistently press against the thin membrane that separates outward calm and concealed chaos…The chaos and calm basic to the collection intersect throughout the book, interrogating the boundaries of a presented life and a life under the surface. “ourself behind ourself, concealed –/should startle most—” wrote Emily Dickinson. Perfect Disappearance startles exactly so.
—Rebecca Weaver, Rain Taxi



“The aim of poetry (and the higher kind of thriller) is. . . . to be unexpected and memorable. So a poem about death might treat it in a way that combines the bizarre and the banal: the Other Side as some kind of institution—a creepy hospital, an officious hotel or retirement home. Martha Rhodes takes such an approach in ”Ambassadors to the Dead,” from her abrupt, unsettling, artfully distorted, indelible new book Mother Quiet. . . . Blending the matter-of-fact with the surreal, as a way of comprehending the stunning, final reality, Rhodes is an inheritor of Emily Dickinson”s many poems on the same subject.”
—Robert Pinsky, The Washington Post

“What is the difference, asks Martha Rhodes, between forgetting and being forgotten? Why do our most primal images of self-definition—the house, the childhood bedroom, the mother’s body—become more vaporous the more we speak? The poems of Mother Quiet don’t just ask these questions; they inhabit these questions. . . . ‘The inside of her mouth was black and airless,’ says Rhodes of the dead mother, and the image is at once a poet’s blessing and a poet’s curse. Weird, dark, hilarious, direct, otherworldly—these poems display a poet in command of every note the English language is capable of sounding. They will not be silenced: they are unforgettable.”
—James Longenbach


Praise for THE BEDS

Delivered with a disarming nonchalance, the poems of Rhodes’s fourth collection lock eyes with grief—at the dissolution of a marriage, the loss of a mind, the deaths of parents—and refuse to blink. “Easy to write hers. Loving Mother of Me,” says one poem’s speaker of the task of picking an inscription for her parents’ gravestones, “But for him—what? beyond his name/ and dates.” This kind of starkness, this quiet harshness, pushes poem after poem into a region somewhere far past conversation, but just before the place where there are no words. Caregiving is torture (“I brought to him the cups of tea/ he smashes across the room./ I brought to him the honey spoons/ he pasted on the wall”), while “Misery” (the title of one poem) is manifest everywhere because “I’ve died, or because you’ve broken/ your favorite wine glass, or lost your passport,/ or because you yourself are ill.” All of this pain is wound around a dark music, in which repetition must suffice for comfort, especially in a series of short, haunting nursery rhyme-like poems utilizing repeated lines: “I’m scared of frogs./ No Bermuda for me, nor ponds./ I’m scared of frogs./ They’re ugly. And creep up from bogs.” All beginnings in this book are merely preludes to endings, such as the new bed, “first purchase of my new life,” also the place “from which my soul may eventually, balloon-like, lift its string/ dangling from the ginkgo across the street while the rest/ of me is en route to my family’s welcoming plot in Sharon.”
—Publishers Weekly