Rachel Contreni Flynn
Throw yourself out of yourself
                            --Paul Celan

Forthcoming Work, Books, Chapbook

This just out: an award-winning poem in Booth!


(also nominated for a Pushcart Prize, thank you Booth!)

and another in The Florida Review


Tongue (Red Hen Press 2010)


Winner of the 2008 Benjamin Saltman Award
Red Hen Press (Granada Hills, CA)

"In her twelfth summer, a girl left the Midwest for an island in Maine where her brilliant, ill grandmother lived in a cottage on a pine-rimmed lake.  The girl was to keep house, to keep the old lady company.  Back home, her older sister starved herself.  That summer, the island was troubled by the discovery of a human tongue on the beach." 

Praise for Tongue:  

Rachel Contreni Flynn, the winner of this year’s Benjamin Saltman Award, honors us with the grace of her language, her strength of purpose as a poet,  and the uncluttered emotional honesty of her work. These poems chronicle the stark contrasts that mark the lives of two sisters. A quirky adolescence and early adulthood is thrust upon one while the other’s life is measured out in slow ounces. I was captured by this passionate and loving recounting of tragic years and dislocations.
       --Eloise Klein Healy, Final Judge, 2008 Benjamin Saltman Award


Rachel Contreni Flynn’s intimate collection examines exile from the self, the body, and from family and society as it exacts the dangerous and necessary work of remembering.  In Tongue, the narrative lens shifts breathtakingly between trauma, wonder, insight and irony, each laboring in concert to “force the story to its rightful unfolding.” Flynn demonstrates that identity is shaped by, and the self owes its very survival to, that unfolding where beauty is crafted from toxin, music from intractable anger—and with the tongue (as both language and tough muscle), one must “feast on solitude” in order to sing out bravely the root-note of grace.  These wise, tender poems urge us to “love this world, though it is flawed/. . .love it entirely, or be lost” all the while recognizing that such an undertaking is no less than the daily rescue of one’s own life from exile.


                                                                                --Chad Sweeney

Tongue is available for purchase from amazon.com; spdbooks.org and Red Hen Press. 

Ice, Mouth, Song:  A Collection of Poems

Winner of the 2003 Dorset Prize from Tupelo Press (North Adams, MA), published July 2005


Purchase from Tupelo Press
or http://www.amazon.com

The poem "Dead Center" appears on http://www.poets.org

Sample Poems

Praise for "Ice, Mouth, Song"

Though we hear echoes of Stevie Smith, The Brothers Grimm, and Louise Gluck's wonderful severities in these poems, Rachel Flynn has made them wholly her own.  Ice, Mouth, Song has a haunting beauty to it and an economy of phrasing consonant with its spare landscapes and mindscapes.  Flynn will not pretty-up her world, nor will she be defeated by its harshness.  In "On Wanting Only One Thing" her emblem seems to be the merganser, which 'plunges through cold water, small heart soaring,/mind clenched behind hopeful, topaz eyes.'  This is a poet who insists -- in her excellend concluding poem -- 'I will not be sad in this world,' a refrain that we can't help but hear and feel as both a vow and a kind of hard-won triumph, barely eked out.
                                                                     -- Stephen Dunn 
                                                                     (judge of the 2003 Dorset Prize)

In Ice, Mouth, Song, Rachel Contreni Flynn uses memory's various trajectories to reassemble the pieces of a midwestern childhood.  Her story does not follow a narrative path but instead forms a chain of lyrical images that cohere with the force of archetypes.  Ice, Mouth, Song is a welcome and promising debut that marks Rachel Contreni Flynn as a refreshing new voice.
                                                                       -- Michael Collier

Personal, elliptical, and densely imagistic, the poems in Rachel Contreni Flynn's arresting first book, Ice, Mouth, Song, manage at the same time to be boldly assertive, true to a spacious emotional logic that make them deeply convincing.

                                                                     -- Carl Dennis

Rachel Contreni Flynn announces in one of her poems, 'I will not be sad in this world.'  The tone of that 'will not' -- determined, hopeful and not a little astonished -- reverberates throughout this gratifyingly mature first collection.  The world of these poems is wintry, its laws unmerciful and unrelenting, its purposes concealed from
us.  But it is a world out of which born, of all things, the solace of poems.  We may be trapped in the cold, we may be slipping on thin ice, but our slipping is a dance, and we're singing all the while.

                                                                    -- Chris Forhan


Winner of the 2008 Chapbook Award from Bright Hill Press (Treadwell, NY), published June 2009


Purchase from http://www.spdbooks.org

The poem "Yellow Bowl" appears on http://www.poets.org

Sample Poems  "Grace" and "Fondue"



 When they took you out

of my body, my body wept


its blood and grit.  When they

took you out of my body,


the man beside me lost his face

in a sycamore leaf.  When they took


you out of my body, the emptiness

gleamed and clicked.  An emptiness


so sudden it was as if coldness

turned in my body like a fist. 


They took you out, and I struggled up,

gasping.  You had no name.


Everyone was busy

with the thinking and stitching,


with discussing.  The man beside me

was no longer beside me.  He was shaking


and fading and leaving. They took you

out of my body and ran away.


There is still no name

for the emptiness, for the numb glare


of all this rage and love. 



We drag bread through a soup

of cheese and wine with long forks


tipped in our favorite colors,


a pot of fuel popping

beneath the thick dish. 


Somehow supper smells

like a train yard.


Somehow that is hopeful. 


We watch ourselves fill

with giddiness and departure.

Praise for "Haywire"

Rachel Contreni Flynn writes with a loving, detailed, rich, knowledge of the real life of farmland America, and with a keenly felt sense of the vulnerability of family to both grief and hope--irreparable loss and the generational promise of love and harvest.  Many of the poems  achieve a genuine representation of much more than the individual moments they describe.  They leave me wanting to know more about the many lives and places only hinted at in one of the best chapbooks I have seen.

--   Reginald Gibbons

Strangely heart-landish, awake and ablaze, Rachel Contreni Flynn’s Haywire broadcasts its corncribs, grackles, and farmhouses with an electrical urgency, as marvelous for its imaginative accuracy of vision as for its restorative depths in the wilds of human feeling.  Fearlessly, and with great affection for the human spirit, these poems remind us that the “haywire” of life isn’t something that goes 100mph out of control in spite of us. Rather it’s a necessity we live by, “all this rage and love.”


--   Matt Hart



How thrilling--and rare--it is to find a poet whose second collection is even better than the first.  Rachel Contreni Flynn’s terrific debut volume, Ice, Mouth, Song is electrified by jumps and the unspoken, but here the voice is calmer, steadier, and willing to stay put, to mine the local and particular for insight.  Flynn is not afraid to follow Lowell’s admonition: “Yet why not say what happened?” And the risk pays off. Haywire is full of dazzling, moving, shimmering poems.

                                                                                     --   Davis McCombs


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