Karen Skolfield: A Review of Sarah Marcus’s Backcountry for As It Ought To Be

Alyse Bensel reviews Backcountry for The Los Angeles Review

Paul David Adkins reviews Backcountry for Red Paint Hill Publishing: Plodding a Wilderness of Addiction and Abuse: Sarah Marcus’ Backcountry and the Specter of Joan Larkin’s A Long Sound

Christina Veladota reviews Backcountry in maybesopoetry

The Next Big Thing Interview

So to Speak: Sarah Marcus on Feminism, Publishing, and Teaching Activism


“Feral, broken, raw and deeply moving, Sarah Marcus’s BACKCOUNTRY announces the arrival of a fearless and visceral voice in poetry.”—Jill Bialosky, author of Intruder

“The poems in Sarah Marcus’s debut chapbook, BACKCOUNTRY, guide readers into rough terrain, where grizzly bears and coyotes threaten from one side and meth addiction and prison from the other. The poems are stark, sometimes violent, and often heartbreaking as they describe a relationship collapsing even as the couple at the center of the collection try again and again with surprising patience to hold it together. Marcus writes with a fierce clarity about love, need, and survival in a terrifying and beautiful wildness Thoreau would not recognize.”—Jennifer Atkinson, author of Drift Ice

“In BACKCOUNTRY, Sarah Marcus takes axe to narrative’s trunk and hands us content in connected circles, a dance of “identifying bodies.” While the bodies/characters themselves do captivate, this sequence is far more—a fugue of animated narrative elements and images that ever dazzles. The poems have “a way of making decisions for you” by restlessly shuffling their repeated tropes into fresh juxtapositions—bears and fire and holes; wetness, consumption, prison, power, and others. In this brilliant and irrepressible chapbook, what can save can also kill; what can free can also confine. You won’t leave.”
Bruce Covey, author of Glass Is Really a Liquid

Anne Carson wrote, “contact is crisis.” How much more so when intimacy is formed in and through violence, when the desired one is already lost, loves you but “not enough.” The narrative of Sarah Marcus’s BACKCOUNTRY, of addiction and suffering set against a backdrop of American wilderness, will be familiar to any of us who have ever loved someone we shouldn’t. The story is powerful because it is familiar, because it is shared. Marcus’s language, careful, clean, and never veering from its necessary focus, draws us into the center of the crisis of contact that “has a way of making decisions for you.” This is a terrifying and deeply brave book. —Julie Carr, author of 100 Notes on Violence


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