The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Valerie Nieman’s “Hotel Worthy”



Trust water only from springs:
Creeks and rivers murmur of white quartz,
willow shade, minnows flashing silver sides—
dissembling the doe, dead upstream from a misspent bullet.

Place no hands where eyes haven’t been:
A rock ledge on a warm March morning
crawls with snakes knotted around nothing
but the expectation of an open palm.

Douse a fire twice, then cover with dirt:
One ember can smolder a resinous root
to flame that runs the ground to bedded leaves, spruce
boughs, trunks fingering fire straight to the sky.

Carry it in full, take it out empty:
But mistakes, hollow as bottles, get heavier
the longer they are carried, the farther
you try to haul them.

This selection comes from Valerie Nieman’s collection, Hotel Worthy available now from Press 53. Purchase your copy here!

Valerie Nieman’s second poetry collection, Hotel Worthy, was published in spring 2015 by Press 53She was a 2013-2014 North Carolina Arts Council poetry fellow, and has received an NEA creative writing fellowship in poetry. Her awards include the Greg Grummer, Nazim Hikmet, and Byron Herbert Reece poetry prizes, and her work has been published in Poetry, New Letters, Virginia Quarterly Review, Chautauqua, West Branch, Connotation Press, The Missouri Review, and several anthologies. Nieman is the author of three novels: Blood Clay, a novel of the New South, and Neena Gathering, set in a near future Appalachia. A fourth book, Backwater, is now in submission.

Nieman graduated from West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she now teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University. She was a founding editor of Kestrel literary journal and currently the poetry editor of Prime Number magazine.

Mari Hailu is a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University where she simultaneously received a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Winner of the faculty-nominated 2014 Margaret Terry Crooks Award for Outstanding Creative Writing, and the David R. Russell Poetry Prize, Mari is grateful to be able to share her words with her community. She is a Managing Editor of The Wardrobe, a blog series affiliated with Sundress Publications, and in her spare time she enjoys playing music at local venues.


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