Carolyn Hembree’s debut collection terrifies.

The title character of Skinny leaves the South and a beloved, dying matriarch for New York City, a “far-off island dream.” Through an expansive dramatis personae, the poems offer polyphonic responses to harrowing encounters. Here is a life at once immediate and recognizable yet imbued with nostalgia: silent film intertitles, biplane transmissions, the broken Welsh of ancestors. This collection incorporates ekphrastic works, prose poems, dramatic monologues, odes, elegies, a pastoral, and a word problem, among other free verse experiments. Despite familiar allusions and forms, the work is otherworldly—regionalisms of the Deep South combine with the idiolect of a very particular family to form a singular grammar as fractured as the landscape it describes.

See the book trailer here.


"the voice is from elsewhere thrown"

$14, 6"x 9", 72 pgs, perfect bound

ISBN: 978-1-888553-50-5

  Still of Mamie and Bird

  Who’s turned the chairs to the wall in the front room,
  dreamy wall nightly dreamt up by the floor lamp?
  Who’s heard the whistling Bird whistle thrice?

  Mamie supine in the back room—L’Air du Temps
  and cherry wood, her slender carved bedposts and bed doll.

  Close, the Bird whispers out—
  Who wrung the necks of your hopes, Skinny?

  Bird loose—wire cage turned to sand flying away,
  Bird into baby grand fly, into wall, into shadow fly.
  Bird in a beach towel dies like fruit dies—softer.

  Orange breast feather—Red breast feather

  . . .

  Chair full of holes in the shower holds her body up,
  a chair water runs through like memory and is lost.

  Stand in her mirror, turn it right side out
  then step into your grieving like a shift, Skinny.

  The way lightning flashes inside a bright day—
  the way a mother’s ills take stronger in the child.

praise for SKINNY


"I am reminded of a ball of heat lightning that shot through our house one summer when I was young. That charge stayed in the air and made us feel like we had snapped suddenly awake. Skinny wakes us with that blue coil, “fast under a low ceiling," shooting from sideboard to curtain rod to screendoor in one brilliant flash, electrifying everything. It sounds like bottle-rockets are going off, and I feel the thrill and terror of living inside each explosive line."—D.A. Powell


"Carolyn Hembree rips into language almost physically to make new phrasing out of her Southern lexicon. Skinny, an autobiographical tour de force, arrives full of swagger: In this debut volume of poems, Hembree gets as close to the original words for things as I can remember anyone doing in a long time."-—Jane Miller


"Hembree’s poetics and Skinny'shonesty direct us to language in the raw, a space integral to the human experience and to poetry in large, a museum antechamber of the self where one is in incessant, powerful dialogue with the world around us, the world that has been, and the world that could be. Like Twombly’s scribbles and smears, Skinny challenges the observer, ultimately having the effect that challenging art has: the expansion of art, language, and the self." -—Megan Bell, Pebble Lake Review.

For the full review from Megan Bell, click here.




Carolyn Hembree’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, jubilat, and Witness, among other journals and anthologies. Her poetry has received three Pushcart Prize nominations, a PEN Writers Grant, a Southern Arts Federation Grant, and a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship Award in Literature. Before completing her MFA, she found employment as a cashier, house cleaner, cosmetics consultant, telecommunicator, actor, receptionist, paralegal, coder, and freelance writer. Carolyn grew up in Tennessee and Alabama. She teaches at the University of New Orleans.


For more information, visit the author's website at