Ohio Violence by Alison Stine

Source: Poet Alison Stine
ebook, 80 pgs
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Vassar Miller Prize winner Ohio Violence by Alison Stine, which I received long ago from the poet (forgive my tardy review — as this was long before I had an e-reader and the file was lost in my inbox), juxtaposes the quiet, pastoral landscape of the Midwest United States with hinted at depravity, overt violence, and speculation.  Her narrator in “Ohio Violence” will tell you a story that is not hers to tell, and while this story begins with dismembered deer parts, but its really about the power of murderous jealousy and violence: “We measure our places in blood,/ bones in weeds, the buried well./ Each brick brought a message in her/ fifteen-year-old fist.” (pg. 18)

Stine’s lines often build from small pieces — whether tiny pieces of an image or situation or emotion — into a crescendo that will hammer the reader when they are least expecting it.  These surprising lines and poems will never be far from the reader’s mind, especially as they continue with the poems that follow.  Each of these poems looks at violence and the secrecy of violence in a new way.  There are missing women, there are violated women, there are those slight indications of inappropriate intimacy, but at the root is the unexpected nature of the violence and the cover-ups that fail to hide the damage done.


All winter we sat blind, I next to the girl   
who loved her scabs, the blood shields   
her head gave up, her face a sun of blank   
amazement. She drew. This means love:   
a circle with a line through it. More work:   
a cross. More crosses. Ice sloughed   
through fields. Ice river, the pages   
of our notebooks. Outside: limbs and roads   
and wires. Outside cracked with force   
and turning. Our poems filled with salt.   
He took me to his bed.   
The writer never speaks. The writer speaks   
in details, the sateen lining of my coat,   
the star point of tongue kissing. The winter   
speaks in the whip. Runoff nixed   
with ash. I spilt water on my notebook.   
Words went back to ink; paper back   
to ruffle, pulp. You smell like dog, the girl   
said. You will be left like the winter.   
Little sputter in the car’s craw. Little   
crevice in the pavement. Ice reminder.   
He took me to his bed, saying: Ali,   
Ali, tell no one. I told the girl, a sore   
gathering, another skin to pick and worry.

Ohio Violence by Alison Stine carries with a heavy burden, but it is a burden that is borne well and with tenderness and homage to those who have been victims.  But do not be fooled that these poems are all tender in content because there is a brutal-ness to the images presented, searing heartbreak and horror into the minds of the reader.  They shall never forget the tales Stine is telling.

About the Poet:

Alison Stine is a 2008 winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship. She was born in Indiana and grew up in Ohio. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she is the author of the chapbook Lot of My Sister, winner of the Wick Prize. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Kenyon Review. This is her first book. She lives in Athens, Ohio.  Her new novel, Supervision, was released April 2015.





  • Suko

    This sounds like a poignant and powerful collection of poems.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Interesting premise. Better late than never in terms of reviewing. 😉