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William Notter’s stunning collection Holding Everything Down explores the everyday struggles, triumphs, and desires of rural Americans. With disarming humor and remarkable honesty, Notter delves into the most personal longings of those who inhabit America’s countrysides: places bound by secrets and ghosts, where joy is discovered in the most unlikely of locations, and even the land itself has a story to tell. These highly accessible poems traverse the world of weekend rodeos, lonely highways, and windswept battlefields; they follow the twin paths of addiction and obsession, and the trials of newfound sobriety. Connections are forged beneath weathered ceilings, and love can be found over a plate of barbecue. Also explored are the depths of humanity’s relationship with nature and freedom, be it the smell of freshly threshed wheat, the purple thunderheads of an approaching storm, or a sunset viewed from Mississippi’s highest peak.
From the muddy deltas of the deep South to the crags of the Big Horn Mountains, Notter’s deeply candid portraits transcend stereotypes to expose an often unseen side of Americana. Hairdresser or handyman, rodeo rider or rancher’s wife, each voice ultimately echoes with the most human of experiences, unveiling the common threads that bind us to our world and to each other.
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William Notter has taught writing at Grand Valley State University and the University of Nevada, Reno, and is the author of the award-winning chapbook More Space Than Anyone Can Stand. He has received fellowships from the NEA, the Nevada Arts Council, and Sierra Arts Foundation. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, AGNI Online, Ascent, The Chattahoochee Review, Connecticut Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Willow Springs, the anthology Good Poems for Hard Times, and on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.Review:
“At once humorous, lyrical, dramatic, and reflective, the voice in these poems captures the jostling freedoms of personality in cinematic terms. The intimate lies down alongside the epic, the jocular shares the verdant field with the chthonic. Like all true works of art, Notter’s poems are had—in the manner we experience dreams, theater, or movies—not simply read. This auspicious first collection possesses originality and depth, attributes far rarer than talent and skill.”
—Ricardo Pau-Llosa, author of Parable Hunter
“William Notter's descriptions of the natural world are delicate, gorgeous (‘a swollen, greasy moon,’ ‘watermelon dusk’), but it’s his feel for the people who inhabit his lines that ultimately makes this collection so memorable and real. In his poems we meet farmers and laborers and we learn about their longings, their hardships, their ‘nagging dreams.’ These are, in the end, deeply and authentically American poems. Like the coyotes one speaker listens for from her porch, Notter’s poems are thin, hungry, unexpected, and sly. A wonderful debut collection.”
—Davis McCombs, author of Dismal Rock
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