Knock Wood, Jennifer Militello
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Jennifer Militello

Knock Wood

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115 printed pages
Winner of the 2018 Dzanc Nonfiction Prize
Knock Wood is an absolute wonder, and Jennifer Militello is at the top of her form.”
—Andre Dubus III, author of Townie and The House of Sand and Fog
In Knock Wood, the first nonfiction collection by award-winning poet Jennifer Militello, a knock on wood to ward off illness sets in motion a chain of events and memories that call into question the very structure of time.
Anchored by a wooden ring, Militello explores her life through the lens of three intertwined elements: the story of a mentally ill aunt in an abusive marriage; a high school romance with a boy who eventually dies of a heroin overdose; and an extra-marital affair characterized by an otherworldly connection. Cause and effect reverse as significant events—an arrest for a felony committed in high school, a trip by train to meet an illicit lover, and a suicide attempt on those same New York tracks—seem to influence one another outside of time and space. As Militello delicately threads each memory to the next, she explores the themes of family damage and the precarious ties of love.
Militello has been recognized many times for her work in poetry and prose, including honors such as the Yeats Poetry Prize from the W.B. Yeats Society of New York, the Betty Gabehart Poetry Prize, and the Tupelo Press First Book Award. Her collection Body Thesaurus was named one of the top poetry books of 2013 by Best American Poetry.
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It was none of his business. He would lie on his back as his head hummed and the pillow was like a sea in that it magnified the sounds, let his daughter’s screams travel in their slow deep way, resonate through the ear bones, resonate through the skull, carried in low frequency from the wild canyon of the mouth, from the throat’s vibrato cave. He could not be more haunted if the sounds were ghosts.
The time is out of joint
I alone knew the truth: that he was a human trapped in a purgatory built of his own fear of the world.
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