“In Castaway, Katie Riegel writes of the haunting lights and darks of childhood, a place where ‘the corn is so tall a child could walk into it and disappear’ and winters where ‘sun strik[es] off ice like organ music.’ This is one of the few books of poetry that has a genuine heartbeat. You’ll swear you can even hear a pulse, or maybe that could just be your heart sighing and heaving as you turn the page. These poems nearly glitter with the sad-lovely sense that you can’t ever go home again, but in Riegel’s sure and steady poems, you will find a new, dear friend that will make an attempt so very worth your while.” —Aimee Nezhukumatathil

“In these haunted, green-drenched, and wind-blown poems set in the open plains of the Midwest, Katherine Riegel deftly wrestles with themes of erosion and impermanence: a home that is lost and now only exists as the idea of home, a family’s slow-motion unraveling, bodies lost to illness, and selves lost to time. A castaway from a lost paradise that can’t ever quite be gotten back to, the speaker in these poems mourns ‘the hard half-truth/of a child’s ownership–that whatever/one has can always be taken away,’ igniting a series of meditations on all that’s cast away, irretrievably lost, and sometimes–through an acceptance of the ultimate unrecoverability of things–unexpectedly returned to us in different incarnations. ‘You know yourself/what wounds is the same/for all of us,’ Riegel writes, and these are indeed poems of piercing clarity and compassion.” —Lee Ann Roripaugh

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From the book:


Through fields of swaying grasses

that bloom and rise        a dark flock

under monuments laughing in the earth and seeping salt

we ride in tiny open cars, in baskets, on sleds, on

horseback        We navigate

gray trees capes catching ghosts in our hands

(they glow like fireflies) and still

we rove        we move        always moving


because sometimes a whisper crawls

towards us        a tendril curling and grasping

prehensile        It carries red stones on its tongue

It speaks of all

we have given away        all we have yet

to know

and we want

to ask it questions        to listen at night

our foreheads pressed to cold



We want

nothing that we have        We

want to stop        We want to

arrive at the green river

where someone familiar will take us by the elbow

and help us board the glittering barge