The Terrible Wife, in this new collection of poems by Terry Ann Thaxton, has married four times and imagined marriages to a soap opera star, her brother-in-law, and any man who will give her a ride because she “wanted to be / part of a wall of women dancing / water falling from the sky or a fountain.” Taking cues from her own mother — who is, to this troubled soul — “an argument against becoming a wife” — she sets out to find meaning: “We march out into the trees / or fly off our balconies looking for a man, / any man.” But still she judges herself through the lens of the men she clings to for comfort like “a woodpecker ... clings to [a] hollow / tree.” Thaxton does not find easy solace for her terrible wife, but instead lets her confusion and weaknesses clink and jangle like wind chimes in an approaching storm. This broken resonance with its disarming images and unpredictable movements is given to us in a voice devoid of self-consciousness and posturing. Thaxton’s poems are as compelling as a lifetime of snapshots spilled on the floor, discovered in a box that, moments ago, one didn’t know existed.
‘Terry Ann Thaxton’s new poems are uncompromisingly tough self-reckonings, unsentimental but always vulnerable examinations of how the past invariably haunts us. They are about what Richard Ellman labels the “controlled seething” from which enduring art must derive. They are also marvelously inventive in their ability to let the memories of Eros morph into occasions for exorcism, and to allow straightforward narrative to suddenly swerve toward the surreal. In other words, these the durable and always impassioned poems of a grown woman — and the sort of poetry that American verse very much needs these days.’ —David Wojahn
‘Tangled in lush Florida landscapes and laced with birdsong, Terry Ann Thaxton's rich new book is as toughly accepting as her own small town protagonist girls, who are unforgettably beaten, duped and finally opened into a womanhood that makes them too smart, too sad, and too dangerous for any one man or lifetime.’ —Terri Witek
‘Terry Ann Thaxton's new poems are filled with birds and silence ... she is open with herself, even about the hard things ... She shows us how it went, from young fantasy to brutality to more fantasy to betrayal (sometimes her own) followed by near-despair. Finally, she settles into a quiet joy which she proceeds to undermine because she is wise enough to know that everything, even that, changes ... Thaxton says that what we think about all this is up to us, but we know what's true. We hold the tenderness to our chests and take it home.’ —Lola Haskins