ISBN 978-0-9840285-3-5 

cover design by Heide Hinrichs

(Author may have available copies. Inquire at lorijo@alum.rpi.edu)



Borrowed Tales poems by Deborah Woodard

In Borrowed Tales, personae congregate to live out their lives: Hamlet and Ophelia join the McGuffey Reader's droll schoolchildren to stand beside Junius, a deaf-mute black man from the early 1900s. When they entwine with Vince, a truculent middleschooler in south L.A, and Elaine, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer weighing in from Azerbaijan, their pasts seed a tangible present. Their lives, intractably immersed in history, release chance possibilties buried in every tale. Poems burst forth like entangled weeds in a camellia bush.


Advance Praise

Deborah Woodard's Borrowed Tales are novelistic, negotiating numerous twists and turns that are inventive and believable, playful and magical, but always rueful. Every tale here is earned. Poetry and prose converge, unearthing a voice at work that challenges the reader. Borrowed Tales is unique, personal, and luminous. —Yusef Komunyakaa

Deborah Woodard's voice is unmistakable. Her newest work, Borrowed Tales, glints with eerie repetitions and frank, funny, masterful language. The lines in this book can blindside: "My eyes were like lumps of food in my throat," "...the girls came like gulls that married telephone poles." The collection is a remarkable ride. —Stacey Levine

In these Tales the marvelous surfaces as a stuttering honesty, intent on Sanka granules, Rust-Oleum, "the umbilical impasse of the buds," and "a heap of living creatures, glued like balsa." Shapely, idiosyncratic sentences appear one after another "like snowflakes frozen singly on the pane." But step back and they fall together into paragraphs faithful to the multiply-exposed nostalgia of anybody's borrowed tales. —Sam Lohmann



Deborah Woodard's Borrowed Tales traces love, disability, and incarceration while toying with our understanding of various historical figures like artist Gordon Matta-Clark and education-pioneer/social worker Catherine Ferguson. This past summer, we corresponded about poetic debt, found objects, Vermont childhoods, and ruin.

— Caitie Moore interviews Deborah Woodard at



Deborah Woodard's obtuse, far-ranging, persona-driven poems are more believable by far than the rich courses of historical personae so often fed to us by the nation's most high-profile poets. Recovery of erased (or never written) sections of our collective historical archive is an admirable task to set for oneself; the problem is that to use personae is to appropriate, and to appropriate requires some degree of enforced compliance, and for poets armed only with pens enforced compliance is usually achieved via the long-prior death of the subject. That's why so many persona-driven poems read as though the work's historical subject had, in fact, volunteered for the assignment and would now like to tell you, dear reader, his or her story in smartly-paced stanzas with an evident thematic throughline. In the case of Woodard's aptly named Borrowed Tales, the personae are still covered with the damp earth they were buried under, and speak to us as from a great distance and through a morass of great confusion. We may term that distance "time and context," and that confusion "sponsored history and the sanctioned archive," which is another way of saying that Woodard doesn't cut the corners other poets with similar projects have cut. We may not always know what the ideational lips of Ophelia, Hamlet, Gertrude, and Horatio are trying to tell us, but what's certain about Borrowed Tales is that Woodard's poems induce in us just the sort of credulousness an expert persona poem requires.

— Seth Abrams reviews Borrowed Tales at



Deborah Woodard (photo credit Kayt Hoch)

DEBORAH WOODARD was born in New York City and raised in Vermont. She holds an MFA from the University of California at Irvine and a PhD from the University of Washington. Her first full-length poetry collection is Plato's Bad Horse (Bear Star Press, 2006). She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Hunter Mnemonics (hemel press, 2008), which was illustrated by artist Heide Hinrichs. Her translation from the Italian of Amelia Rosselli, The Dragonfly: A Selection of Poems 1953-1981, was published by Chelsea Editions (2009). She teaches hybrid creative writing and literature classes at the Richard Hugo House, a literary writing center in Seattle, Washington. Learn more at www.Deborahwoodard.com.