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Rough Honey

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  95 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Selected by Mark Doty from over one thousand manuscripts for the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, Melissa Stein's Rough Honey is a startling, sensuous collection. These poems speak of fragility and power, the contradictions of pleasure, the bruises we bear. With remarkable range, they carry us from a whitewater rafting calamity to the "torrents of wheat" on a family farm; f ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by American Poetry Review (first published September 1st 2010)
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Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rough Honey is a miracle of a first collection. Melissa Stein’s sensuous articulation of the world from the inside out puts her poems into a kind of freefall—back into a pulsing, primal language. Her electric apprehensions throb with this nearly preverbal knowing. They are rough as a hound’s tongue; they are honey itself. Above all they define and re-define the lyric poem, giving it myriad protean identities. Stein is a new poet of the first order.
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I loved this. Especially sections ii and v. Serious business, girlfriend can turn a line.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
The oxymoron within the title, Rough Honey, is woven throughout this collection. Stein’s poems show us danger and sweetness, contradiction in desire and action. There is a precision to her word choices and images that elevates even the weaker poems. Stein is a master at using tension within her poetry. Her images fascinate and disturb, often simultaneously.
The body kept bobbing
to the surface so I slid her under
the ice, such a thin layer,
(After she told me she was pregnant)

he turns to her and gri
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Okay, so I was so close to giving this book 3 stars instead of four. There are parts (mostly isolated in sections ii and iii) that are erratic and confused at best. They are reaching and pretentious at their worst. I almost called it quits at that point, but I am glad that I didn't.

I didn't quit because of the promise of section i. Particularly "Voltage", "Galileo", and "So deeply that it is not heard at all, but" which constituted all kinds of verse and spots on the abstract spectrum.

While this
Kasey Jueds
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
So fascinating to read a poetry book that's so varied, but still, somehow, very much one whole piece. There's a big range of forms here, including poems not in forms at all; some are narrative, some lyrical and mystical and abstract; they seem to be narrated by many different voices, and there's no logical progression in terms of the way one poem moves into the next... but still, the book feels woven so carefully out of disparate threads, and unified in spite of all its variety and surprises. Gr ...more
Bert Edens
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Won this as part of a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I am typically not a fan of poetry, but that's usually because it can be too abstract and vague for me. I like poetry that is emotional and has an edge to it. The poems that Stein provides in Rough Honey certainly meet that criteria.

I believe my favorite poem was about the wasp, where the speaker swims away from a wasp, hiding, even though she had wanted to commit suicide before. Once presented with an opportunity to be stung, hurt, die, etc.,
Melissa Stein’s virtuosic yet inviting debut poetry collection begins with an over-abundance of liquid:
“The lanes are littered with the bodies of bees.
A torrent took them…” (5)
Torrents—of rain, honey, oil, sub-surface riptides— create the hydrous landscape of Rough Honey. Stein’s characters are often suspended in a liquid state of some sort—a world that offers the euphoria of weightlessness and yet is full of jagged rocks and stinging insects.
Gordon Hilgers
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stein's rich, lyric poetry is amazingly accessible despite its seeming complexity. Amazingly word-rich and concise, these poems focus on both the paradox of desire and the longing for wholeness. Even keel, rarely lopsided or out-of-focus, the poetry here is a smack of utter freedom to be found in the complication and eventual defeat of language. I highly recommend this book ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly beautiful writing. Her word choice is often surprising, but always rings as authentic. She's a master at taking the mundane and making it extraordinary, or taking an ugly truth and making it beautiful. And, on a less literary note, I once did a reading with Melissa Stein, and she was incredibly humble and kind. So a winner as both a poet and a human being! ...more
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Best book of contemporary poetry I've read in a while. They bring the world into the poem and turn it inside out. These poems are thoughtful, carefully crafted, and stronger on each subsequent reading. ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There are definitely some weaker poems in this collection, but there were also some of the best poems I've read in a long time, the kinds of poems that make me jealous as hell that I didn't write them myself. I will be re-reading this book for awhile. ...more
Yona McDonough
Aug 22, 2011 is currently reading it
I am loving this collection of poetry, a first for this author. Her voice is original, fresh and engaging. I want to see more from her. One poem begins, "Cherries hemorrhage in a bowl..." Love that, and many more too. ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poems
I dream a sonnet made of buttons. (35)

(on quail): noting that for all the terror of their collective flight / it sounds like nothing so much as umbrellas opening. (42)

kerosene sister (75)
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Two or three that I really liked. The rest...mmm.
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I really enjoyed this book.
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-50, poetry
(How to Fall from) Grace - my favorite poem in the collection.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Quality of poems is really uneven, not to be unexpected in a debut collection. But the promise is there.
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Melissa Stein's poetry collection Rough Honey won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by Mark Doty. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, the Southern Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the ...more

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