Everything Never Comes Your Way by Nicole Stellon O'Donnell
In her third collection, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell explores the landscapes of memory, argument, and wilderness. These poems deconstruct memoir, dig at the roots of philosophical argumentation, and critique the role of the poet as an observer of the natural world. From manicured baseball fields to the debate podium, from the lobby of the public pool to the hallowed Alaskan cabin where John Haines once sat down to write, these poems push against the notion that the solitary self is the arbiter of truth.
“There are other doors. Even some we contain,” writes Nicole Stellon O’Donnell in this intricate series of poems, by turns spare and expansive, lineated and prose. They’re all here—all the doors she promises, each one propped deftly ajar. I trust few writers like I trust O’Donnell to reckon honestly with the hybrid self. This book honors both the speaker’s hard interior weather and all the landscapes against which her life-dramas are cast. Part memoir, part meditation, and part literary confrontation, this speaker's voice is ultimately a teacher's voice, nuanced and discerning. Among her teachings, I cherish these especially: how to “imagine the gray empty of after,” how to “lean toward the quickly / deepening sky,” how to “Be wrong well.”—Julie Marie Wade, author of Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing
What do we leave out, what do we include—as we fashion a poetry, as we forge a life? These are the questions of Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s elliptical and beguiling Everything Never Comes Your Way. Ranging from picking crowberries to battling a daughter’s cancer, from the struggle to write as a mother and an Alaskan, O’Donnell challenges us and herself both to do “everything we can do” and to “be wrong well.” “Let what little / I am allowed to offer / be a thread,” she writes, and in this book we see an artist using that thread to weave, out of the disparate, her world. This is a book to savor.—Tess Taylor, author of Rift Zone
Nicole Stellon O’Donnell is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Steam Laundry and You Are No Longer in Trouble. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Passages North, and other literary journals. She received both an Individual Artist Award and an Artist Fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation, as well as a Boochever Fellowship and an Alaska Literary Award from the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation. Her teaching has been recognized with a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and a Heinemann Fellowship. She lives and writes in Fairbanks, Alaska.