Winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Award
The Gunnywolf, Megan Snyder-Camp’s third collection of poems, takes its title from an obscure folk tale about a wolf that scares little girls for their songs. Aiming to articulate what has been hiding in plain sight, Snyder-Camp considers whiteness, environmental racism, the Baltimore protests, mothering, and the everyday wilderness of modern-day life; her poem sequence is a necessary and bold venture into the most pressing issues of our times.
Read this extraordinary book. Read it right now, and then read it again. Megan Snyder-Camp has written an urgent and searing collection of poems that—like the folk tales at the heart of all literature—shape our hopes and fears and foibles through wondrous and resonant language. The Gunnywolf is a magnificent book.
Camille T. Dungy, author of Smith Blue
“ . . .we need to have a way/of seeing what is happening to us.” Part fable, part headline news, Megan Snyder-Camp’s third collection is a compelling exploration of class and race in American culture. The Gunnywolf, a folkloric character made modern, insinuates, wryly observing a young mother’s life and choices. This is poetry of purpose as well as song, leading us to ask the most important question: Who is the Gunnywolf?
Erin Malone, author of Hover
In The Gunnywolf, Megan Snyder-Camp peers deeply, compellingly, into interruption. Human presences in dense woods; events macro and micro derailing our anxious attention; the mythical Gunnywolf itself, a creature who startles girls into silence; and how racism abruptly illuminates and obfuscates the ways many American Lives® get lived. Syntactically sinuous, these poems disrupt and irrupt into themselves, showing how interruption presumes a dominant narrative—the imagined integrity of which highlights something about power as the ability to control what and whom may enter one’s experience. Like a gated community. Like “exploring” a country. So when Snyder-Camp turns her tenacious gaze to her own white privilege, the work becomes an exhibit. For a courtroom? For a museum? Yes.
Douglas Kearney, author of Buck Studies
With empathy and unexpected leaps of imagination, Megan Snyder-Camp handles the most pressing issues of our time with an extraordinary deftness. The Gunnywolf is a book acutely aware of peril, be it American violence or climate change, but it is also a book of praise—to her children, to nature (and its inhabitants), and to the “sunny day / into which we cannot help speeding.”
David Hernandez, author of Dear, Sincerely
The Gunnywolf loved secrets. How they curved
and thickened and beat the air green.
The problem with memory, he said,
was how once you told it, then the telling
was all that survived. Poof the actual thing.
He was lying on his back, whittling
leg-bones into beads to take to market.
Ryan Gosling’s face on half, strangers on the rest.
Sometimes people choose a face that reminds them
of their father. Sometimes people fill a whole bag
with the faces then make a run for it. But of course
the Gunnywolf catches up. He’s been selling beads
for years now; look closer and there they are
around the neck of everyone you know. Ryan
Gosling Ryan Gosling when two people come together,
face against face. Oh the secrets taste
like salt, they gather like wool. An engine
trying to turn over. An engine in the water
trying to turn over.
Family dinner night, and we are deciding what to save:
polar bears or slipper limpets. Girls in Afghanistan
or the wolf. We can’t save everything
but the kids are ready
with their banks, the season’s extra, the not-
ice cream. How does the Afghan girl feel
to make our list? We bring more and more
money to the table but the list outruns it.
My mother comes in from visiting a friend in hospice,
sick from all the chemo. When I get whatever it is, she says,
I want you to do nothing. It’s only May
and already they’ve declared a statewide drought.
Yesterday I hiked over a river that was not there.
Coral reefs, my son says, that’s what I want
to save. And so we do. Whatever is happening to us
is deductible. Silence of the was-river,
was-bear. In the movies everyone is building
some kind of ark.
The Gunnywolf has posted a sign
in all caps at the edge of his forest:
MY NARRATIVE IS NOT FOR YOU
and there is a longer handpainted one
along the highway by the fireworks stand
but no one can read it at highway speed.
The fireworks stand likes this conversation
and has made several small signs
like lines of a poem every half-mile
between mailboxes and cedars.
There are so many cedars in these poems
I tell my friend she needs to stop
having them in her poems.
We are driving to the mountain
thinking we can handle it, just five
miles, but we are the only ones there
and all it is is switchbacks then stairs.
Everyone we meet has climbing poles
and tells us we’re not even halfway.
But it’s beautiful up there,
they say, a dozen mountain goats
sunning themselves, totally worth it.
I can’t figure out how they got here
but they are all on their way back down.
I wanted the mountain to give me a poem.
My friend turned back at the treeline
but I kept going on my hands and knees
thinking I was earning my poem.
Near the top three goats were headed down.
They pushed past me on the narrow trail,
they stared with coinslot eyes,
tired of my kind. I sat down on the trail
to keep from falling as the goats kicked rocks
down around me. Was this their narrative
or mine? I was too afraid to notice the lyric sky.
Too afraid to get out of the way.