Titles 1998-2018

Swallows and Waves, Paula Bohince


Equal parts ekphrasis and Rorschach test, Paula Bohince’s third collection Swallows and Waves draws from a palette of Japanese scroll paintings and woodblock prints created centuries ago. Looking deeply into images of birds, animals, flowers, mothers, soldiers, and lovers, she returns with poems that risk everything in their transformation, reflecting loneliness and eros, doubt and reassurance.


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Paula Bohince is the author of The Children and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Poetry, Granta, and elsewhere. She has received prizes from the Poetry Society of America and the UK National Poetry Competition, as well as the “Discovery”/The Nation Award.


"There’s movement in Bohince’s ­poems, but it’s gradual and subtle — an eye passing like Ken Burns’s camera over a still image, discovering new details."
New York Times Book Review

"Ekphrasis seems too sharp a word…to describe the silky music of these elegantly balanced poems…. Many Western poets, from Ezra Pound to Gary Synder, have been hopelessly in love with Japanese culture and its exotic erotics, but Bohince joins the very best of writers who slide open the screens, fully aware there are other screens still concealing our deepest pleasures and pains.”
The Harvard Review

"Each scroll and print is a scene, and from each Bohince designs a narrative, her lines heavy with precise detail, distinct motions, bare truths, and subtle wishes.  Remote yet highly intimate, Swallows and Waves walks a neat path between secret and revelation.” 
The Cincinnati Review

"In these emotionally restrained lyrics, Bohince adeptly observes her own feelings as she sees them reflected in the Japanese scrolls she describes. These poems bear rereading in order to allow their delicate subtleties, like reflections on a still pond, to emerge."
The Hopkins Review, "The Ekphrastic Moment," print and onlin

"Paula Bohince’s empathic lyrics based on Japanese scroll paintings and wood prints demonstrate 'how attention and technique coalesce / into art.' She has written a carefully made, elegantly poised, and deeply humane book of poems.
—Edward Hirsch

"Paula Bohince’s renderings of brilliantly particular Japanese woodcuts and paintings in Swallows and Waves both honor and extend their precipitating subjects. Mind­play, word­play, and world­play combine in these consummate ekphrastic poems, offering–just as the original artworks do, but in a vocabulary unmistakably Bohince’s own–glimpses of life as it always exists: inside action, moment, and the implausible, multiply­layered silks, pelts, and feathers of felt existence."
—Jane Hirshfield