“This book is an astonishment. In ravishing, formally exploratory poems, Maya C. Popa wields the lyric like a reparative scalpel, evoking wonder and woundedness in equal measure: ‘It’s plain we didn’t see / the future coming,’ she announces. Searching for a spring that brings renewal, lamenting ‘snow / that vanishes with touch,’ her poems register a unique combination of imperilment and possibility, with imagistic precision one can’t forget: ‘A faint hiss—that is / your own life now, hurrying / from one light to another.’ Wound Is the Origin of Wonder reflects to us our own historical moment with unusual clarity, even as its lyric exploration of psychic and social landscapes stand outside of time. This is a book I will return to.” —Meghan O’Rourke
Award-winning poet Maya C. Popa suggests that our restless desires are inseparable from our mortality in this pressing and precise collection. Rooting out profound meaning in language to wrench us from the moorings of the familiar and into the realm of the extraordinary, the volume asks, how do we articulate what’s by definition inarticulable? Where does sight end and imagination begin?
Lucid and musically rich, these poems sound an appeal to a dwindling natural world and summon moments from the lives of literary forbearers—John Milton’s visit to Galileo, a vase broken by Marcel Proust—to unveil fresh wonder in the unlikely meetings of the past. Popa dramatizes the difficulties of loving a world that is at once rich with beauty and full of opportunities for grief, and reveals that the natural arc of wonder, from astonishment to reflection, more deeply connects us with our humanity.
About the Author
Maya C. Popa is the author of American Faith, recipient of the 2020 North American Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in the Nation, Poetry, and the Paris Review, among other publications. The poetry reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she lives in New York City.
Wound is the Origin of Wonder showcases Popa’s ability to weave together rich internal reflections with finely wrought observations of the natural world. True to its title, Popa’s collection traces the titular emotion all the way back to its origins, shedding light on the wound so that we may look with wonder on the fuller picture that emerges.
— Celeste Chen - Harvard Review
Wound Is the Origin of Wonder is stunning for how it miraculously balances tenderness and terror, poems of hovering anxiety and longing that also allow themselves to be turned toward pleasure. I am now, as always, thankful for poems that balance the fullness of the human experience. Maya C. Popa has done that here.
— Hanif Abdurraqib
‘Dear Life,’ the opening poem of Maya C. Popa’s stunning Wound Is the Origin of Wonder, is worth the price of entry on its own. If I’d stopped there, this book would have given me more than I’d hoped for, but who could stop? Each poem, every single one, startled me with its precision and clarity. At times I gasped. Of course wonder is related to wound, awe to pain, and ‘every bright thing has at its heart a hiddenness / it offers when you’ve just about stopped looking.’ So we keep looking. We keep going. When I reached the end of this book, I wasn’t ready for its spell to be broken, not yet, so I began it again.
— Maggie Smith
I am stuck in an almost life, / in an almost time,’ Maya C. Popa writes in the titular poem from Wound Is the Origin of Wonder. Suspended in the uncanny amber of such a time, such a place, we readers encounter ourselves, endlessly reprocessing our own pasts and worrying our futures as the vast roiling moment corrodes both. Still, Popa insists upon, if not hope exactly, then a world beyond the hopelessness this one inspires: ‘There are still things that cannot be imagined.’ Wound Is the Origin of Wonder is a complex, searching collection, one I will be returning to for years.
— Kaveh Akbar
Subtle and gorgeous... The ecstatic language of these meditations and confessions is animated as much by pain as by joy.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Composed of sharp images and evocative lyrics... Popa renders these emotional moments like gemstones rotated in the sun, glittering from every angle... A remarkable collection from an early-career poet very much making her ascendance.
In Wound Is the Origin of Wonder, Popa's elegant and moving exploration of grief and its causes and manifestations is more nuanced than simply observing that loss and living go hand-in-hand.
— Sarah Kain Gutowski - New York Journal of Books