"This is a courageous book." —Linda Pastan
Kyle Potvin’s debut full-length poetry collection, Loosen, is available from Hobblebush Books (Jan. 2021). Her chapbook, Sound Travels on Water (Finishing Line Press), won the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. She is a two-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and received a commendation in the 2019 International Hippocrates Open Prize for Poetry in Medicine. Her poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, Tar River Poetry, Whale Road Review, The New York Times, JAMA, and others. Kyle is co-founder with Tammi Truax of the Prickly Pear Poetry Project: Processing the Cancer Experience Through Poetry, a workshop for survivors and caregivers. A member of the Powow River Poets and Frost Farm’s Hyla Brook Poets, she is an advisor to Frost Farm Poetry in Derry, New Hampshire, and served as assistant director of the New Hampshire Poetry Festival for five years. Kyle lives with her husband and two sons in Southern New Hampshire.
"In this moving and well-crafted collection, Kyle Potvin looks at the difficult world of sadness and pain and shows us with fine imagery (“the Holsteins black and white as pages”) the beauty we often fail to see. “In some places yellow means caution/ in others courage” she writes. This is a courageous book."
"Why do we turn to poetry? For me it’s the distillation of heart and “smart”—a necessary precision and care for each word, for a language that leads to an enlarged experience of life. In Kyle Potvin’s first full-length collection, she employs a sparkling lyric craft to ask, “How will I live?” While balancing the anxieties of breast cancer and its treatment—backed into the corner of her own existence—she creates a way to live with grace, finding pleasure in close observation (wasps, a rejoicing in the sky, a family of fox beneath her forsythia), finding pleasure in children, memory and reading. This is a book of music, “Take this world,/ all its honking, hip-hop and hiccups”—a book of songs unloosed, of an unmoored state and then an opening and letting go."
"God looks down on Kyle Potvin’s night and admits: “this world is pain; do I have to say it?” But like Potvin, God promises, “I will try again.” These poems keep reminding us to try again—to “taste,” “bite,” “kneel,” “take,” “hoard,” “stay,” “sip,” and “brush off despair”—despite frightening diagnoses, life-threatening illnesses, and more of life’s scattered litter. While we will at times get stopped by the inevitable red lights of loss and time, life can also be like hitting “green after green after green” down Second Avenue. This collection, which could as well be called (after some of its poems and much of its sensibilities) Adopt the World or Rogue Wave, affirms that Potvin’s doubts and griefs are overtaken by her down-to-earth determination to survive and to savor “the bitter / the sweet, the salty, the sour.” We must be ready to “devour” all that we can. Writing in a variety of forms, and in a tone that is often serious but rarely heavy, Kyle Potvin shows us that to “loosen”—to let go of fears, limits, knots—we must also be anchored in the kinds of small observations, intimate stories, profound relations, and honest language that these poems hold. Reading them, “Let your mind rise, a chime / of wrens startled from the tree” even if “In the morning, / You’ll remember nothing.” "
—Alice B. Fogel
For Sound Travels on Water
"Most poets who attempt poetry about tragedies, both personal and global, are satisfied with using the subject itself to do most of the heavy lifting—as if just mentioning the word “war” or “cancer” is sufficient to carry the reader along. Kyle Potvin isn’t satisfied with this kind of easy victory. Her poems, with humor, grace, and metaphor, allow the reader to accompany her into a deeper understanding of what it’s like to confront cancer. Through her finely chosen words and craft the reader recognizes the human condition confronting mortality without giving in to despair. Of course, there is much more in her work to admire than poems about cancer. She tackles the familiar subjects of family, food, and even laundry, with wit and, again, an ability to make the commonplace a door into something universal and deeply moving.
There is much beneath the surface here. Dive in."
—Robert W. Crawford
"Beneath Kyle Potvin's capable pen, simple objects (soup, a bike ride, a wave, a jellyfish etc.) transform to wonderful metaphors. The speaker in these poems is a modern woman dealing with cancer, being a mother, a wife, a professional woman. The language in the poems is spare, crafted, clear-- the form, mostly formal with a scattering of free verse. Issues of mortality run through many of the poems, but they are never somber or depressing. If there is a sense of chaos here, form contains it. If there is despair (but there is never despair), there is also acceptance, appreciation for life, and “hope that travels like sound on water.” I read these strong poems three times; I will surely read them many more."
"Kyle Potvin is a brave, smart poet. Brave enough to take on the difficult and downright frightening subject matter, and smart enough to know when and how formal verse can provide a safe structure for doing just that. Whether evoking loss through the memory of a dead loved one or dancing literally and figuratively with a child in the dark, these poems are haunted by cancer, persistent as a wave. Through sonnets, villanelles, and free-verse, Potvin dares take on tumors, chemo, and a woman with hairless head; on the highway, she takes on cancer itself, riding in the car behind her. Even sphere-shaped fruit inspires certain angst, until “hope travels / Like sound on water.” Bravo for this poet who fears love might be lost like a glove slipped from a pocket, but savors the idea of her life’s last bite, be it carrots or cream or a T-bone steak."
"I'll take what you bring, she dares this world, "And devour each bite."
Loosen is available HERE.
Cover Art: Brenda Wilbert
Sound Travels on Water
Sound Travels on Water is available HERE.
Cover Art: Michelle Baker
Read some of Kyle’s work
Credit: Trina Bird (photographer)/Brenda Wilbert (artist)
The Window of Joan of Arc Talks to the Window of St. Anne - Whale Road Review
Fireball - Ecotone
Abecedarian: Diagnosis - American Journal of Poetry
When the Irises Don’t Come - SWWIM Every Day
Mysteries of the Corn - Crab Creek Review
No Treachery of Maggots - Ekphrastic Review
Lunar Eclipse - Measure Review
Commuter, 1993 - Unbroken Journal