Michelle Whittaker




2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist!

Surge, the debut poetry collection from Michelle Whittaker, ruminates on how specific memories survive over a lifespan. Through haunting recollections with a powerful momentum, the poems recall vividly a suddenness of the uncontrollable physical and psychological disturbances as seen through loss and recovery. The lyrical narrative threads in Surge explore conversations between authority and disillusionment of human nature; while asking what we as humans might learn about how to heal - from the ecology of nature or other species.

Michelle Whittaker in the New York Times Magazine. Poem selected by Terrance Hayes.




In the wondrous poems of Michelle Whittaker, "the tired self slipknots a song for her own self to sleep." Even as her language loops into lullabies, swells and spells, it casts a blue and uneasy shadow. Even when she meditates on art or mortality, she dazzles with a turn of phrase and explosive imagery. Even when adrift on the music and mystery of dreams, Surge is fueled by feeling. Warmth and compassion power this amazing debut.
 —Terrance Hayes


Whittaker practices an edgy self-assertion; many poems offer a little push-back, never shrill, sometimes in-your-face, sometimes a drawing of boundaries...I found this poetry, this book, strong and effective. The obscurity, anxiety, the off-stage presence of hidden forces and events, create a spare, enigmatic texture, delaying easy gratification, while the quick particularity, vivid emotion, bold freedom with language pulls the reader forward.
—Lem Coley, American Book Review


Life, in a sense, is lived in the aftermath. The pivotal incident (or events) varies, but anyone who has lived for a while can mark the spot that divides before from after. Whittaker examines the after in this volume…Sparse and lyrical, these poems blur the lines between memory, dream, and the present
Kirkus Reviews


Due to the solitary nature of suffering, the art that explores it can be important beyond measure. In her book, Surge, Michelle Whittaker uses honest and original imagery to lend a dignity to human suffering that many so desperately need.
At the Inkwell


And oh what lovely spells the poet casts to convince us that we’re no longer in the kingdom of the sick, “citizens of that other place,” as [Susan] Sontag says. Whittaker is a poet with an ear for music which is apparent in the sound and rhythm of language.
—Erica Charis-Molling, Lunch Ticket

I just started Michelle Whittaker’s Surge, and I can’t render how much, for how long, I’ve needed those poems; the landscape is truly not ready, but it better hurry up!
—Arika Foeman, Cave Canem interview 


Until Michelle Whittaker came along, remipedes were “poison-happy” crustaceans, not metaphors for the poet’s art, not “beseechers” with fangs. Thus debutsa voice like no other and an imagination that feeds on paradox. The unbowed spirit magnifies the broken, mortal body. Cruelty and love pack into the same exoskeleton, male and female they pack. We do unspeakable things to each other, yet we create sumptuous havens, music, art, mirrors formerly known as literature, out of our “Goddamn Fire.” We are in danger. Surge just might save us, even as we drown.
 —Julie Sheehan, author of "Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise"


 Michelle Whittaker sounds like no other poet I know: there is a wildness in her work, a strange singing from an unfamiliar depth, built of arresting imagery and turns of phrase that bend the mind. The scope of her vision is wide, as she interrogates love, the body and mortality, art, the "self" and its mutability and recesses. Whittaker's is a poetics that affirms life as much as it questions it, "consol[ing] the yes" we have no choice but to offer experience, even in darkness, even at "the edge of almost." Surge is a startling debut from a unique and mysterious poet
—Charif Shanahan, author of "Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing"


Michelle Whittaker's Surge is a rumination on home, body, memory, wind, what it is to be hunted and haunted. In "A Partial Cento of Visual Light," Whittaker writes, I could have done a Joan of Arc/as the last breath lodged in a man’s throat. This may be the moment you start gasping. Begin storing up your oxygen; Whittaker's poems will leave you breathless. 
—Aimee Herman, author of "meant to wake up feeling"




Michelle Whittaker is a poet and musician. Surge, her debut poetry collection, was Finalist in the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, VinylNarrative, Southampton ReviewTransitions MagazineLong Island Quarterly, and other publications. She was awarded a Jody Donohue Poetry Prize, NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, and Cave Canem Fellowship. Michelle is an Assistant Professor in the Program of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University.



Michelle Whittaker, Surge

Publication date July 1st 2017


ISBN: 978-0-9981440-1-6

Cover artist: Dawn Lee

Read our interview with Dawn.

2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist!

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