Independent Publishers Group Logo

Sign up today...
for featured pop culture and science reads, books for kids and teens,special offers, bestsellers, and more, in your inbox!

Select topics of interest:
Back Cut
Back Cut

Back Cut


87 Pages, 5.25 x 8.25

Formats: Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $16.00 (US $16.00) (CA $22.00)

Publication Date: September 2021

ISBN 9781936364381

Rights: WOR

Black Heron Press (Sep 2021)

Not Yet Published. Estimated release date: September 2021


These tender, accessible poems follow a husband and wife who eke out a living at the edge of Washington State's rain forest following World War II

The poems in Back Cut are set in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Washington State. The time is immediately after WWII, when the heyday of logging and harvesting razor clams has passed and people eke out a living on what is left of these natural resources. Back Cut is a love story. Through alternating monologues, husband and wife reveal themselves. He is a veteran who fought in Europe and now battles addiction. She has largely withdrawn from family and community. The narrative contrasts the romantic view of the fabled rain forest and mythic ocean with the reality of being human in the Northwest grays and rains. Solitary humans have little power in the face of dominant nature. In these poems husband and wife are dedicated to an abiding love lived out on a fretwork of personal disquiet. The couple's inner thoughts and feelings and the physical environment are detailed with both woe and humor. The poems describe living in a cabin, lighting a wood stove, jarring clams, digging potatoes, helping neighbors, cutting floral greens, sitting in a tavern, and touching each other. To the husband and wife, each sensual detail can be a prick or a joy.


"Ann Spiers' Back Cut is a love story weathered and brined in the wilds of the Washington coast. In her series of tightly sectioned sequences, the voices of the lovers are stark and authentic, "I don't like him/finding value/in a cracked cup" and "She comes out on the porch/she raises my rifle/ for one shot at the cursed crow." Difficulties accentuate tenderness, commitment, and the unspoken devotion of partners. Spiers' language is cut clean, burnished like beach wood or sand-scrubbed stone. These poems honor place and the people bound to it. They marry sea and forest, hunger and plenty. The wife says what the poems say, "Yes I am here I am here." Dress for weather. This collection is much more than a day at the beach." —Kevin Miller, winner of the Wandering Aengus Press Book Award for Vanish. "A husband thinks of his wife's skin—"of light flowing off/the great heron's wings"—but misses the moment that might bring them together. The wife holds onto generous moments—"my true love standing/when women enter the room." Love in this world is not easy to know or speak of, with the ebb and flow of work, of "cash for real cream." Yet love is richly cast in each line of these monologues by wife and husband, uniquely set against the coast of the Pacific Northwest in the aftermath of World War II. Spiers' poems are a mastery of such unspoken, yet tender emotions. Her sounds and imagery are well married and will linger like brine, having taken one to the edge of the ocean and back." —Sharon Hashimoto, winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize for The Crane Wife "As the title suggests, the poems in Ann Spiers' latest collection Back Cut come at their subject indirectly, tell their truth slant. Through a powerful series of persona poems, Spiers recreates the not-so-distant era, after the tall trees had fallen, of the men and women who subsist on the outer edge of the Washington coast. Here, husband and wife tell their stories in words as earthy as the land and as salty as the sea where they eke out a living. As wildness still shines through the clear cuts, tenderness glints in the spaces of what's not said. Spiers describes the collection as a love story, and love story it is, not just between husband and wife, but between humans and the land that sustains them. Kudos to Spiers, who renders it all so vividly we can taste each briny clam, claim our complex Northwest history." —Holly J. Hughes, author of Hold Fast and winner of the American Book Award In Back Cut "Ann Spiers accomplishes the rare feat of weaving lyrical poems into a compelling narrative. Set in the mid-twentieth century, two characters—"Husband" and "Wife"—struggle to support themselves in the depleted landscape of the Olympic Coast after the great forests have been cut down and the clam beds ravaged for commerce. In poems as spare and language as angular as the couple themselves, the reader is taken on a journey of pain and beauty as the man and woman drag the long nets, light damp wood in iron stoves, and reflect on their love, their neighbors, and their remote, haggard world. Spiers gives us that world back again--bears, salmon, flotsam cabins, even a wild man--in sea-swept poems of compelling beauty and depth." —Sharon Cumberland, author of Peculiar Honors and Strange with Age; two-time winner, First Prize for Poetry, Pacific Northwest Writers Association "These poems in the voices of Husband and Wife tell a love story as intimate and unsentimental as a "flannel shirt faded to grey." Theirs is a hard-scrabble life, digging clams till "the entire sea returns/to fill our boots," or gathering forest greens for "dollars for our pounds/of baled Christmas." He's "a salty man in generous pants"; her skin glows like "light flowing off/the great heron's wings." You'll enjoy spending this time with them." —Sibyl James, author of The Grand Piano Range

Author Biography

Ann Spiers is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Vashon Island, Washington and stewards the Vashon Poetry Post. Her poems appear widely in print and on-line in journals and anthologies. Many of her lyrics are collected as art books. Her fine-art chapbooks are in private collections and the special collections at Stanford University, the University of Washington's Suzzallo Library, The British Library, and other libraries. She received her Master in English Literature and Creative Writing degree from the University of Washington. Back Cut is Ms. Spiers' first book.