Karnac Books, London: FORCEPS– Poems about the Birth of the Self by Wendy Hoffman


Released spring 2016 by Karnac Books, London

Forceps: Poems about the Birth of the Self is WENDY HOFFMAN’s third book with Karnac. Her London publisher specializes in books on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.  Wendy, a psychotherapist for the past two decades, writes about her recovered memories.  

“The search for my true past came in distinct waves,” says Wendy. “This collection of poems includes some from the long period when I knew something was drastically wrong but didn’t consciously know what that was and some from the breakthrough when I discovered my never-bloomed self. The poems cover the outskirts of my awakening, my plowing through and arrival in the middle of awareness.When dissociated memories and emotions exploded inside, eventually they filtered into a poem. The horror transmuted itself. These poems are that record. …I have regained a real, not imposed, self.”  

Praise for Forceps

Like the forceps in the title of Wendy Hoffman’s collection, these tough and unrelenting poems grasp life’s betrayals and losses, but as the poet says, “Whatever happened will be washed away / whatever happened will be gone.” And she might have been talking about this book when she said in a poem about shopping in a Turkish fruit and vegetable market, “You don’t have to dig to the bottom / for the good ones.”

Faye Moskowitz, Professor, English and Creative Writing, George Washington University

Wendy Hoffman’s poems dive through fathoms of unutterable grief. The grief is specific to the poet but also part and parcel of our being mortal. She is a poet of the body – its frailties and debilities but also its tenacity. Her poems throb with this tenacity as she pushes words to do their utmost, achieving, at times, a primordial eloquence.

Baron Wormser, Poet Laureate of Maine, 2000–2005

With Wendy’s permission we’ve reprinted “Returning,” from Forceps.  (Adam Zagajewski , [1945 – ], awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, is Wendy’s favorite poet.)


                      * after  Zagajewski


I walk on childhood sidewalks

past states, boroughs, counties

following invisible footpaths

and transparent voices

to the place where I was born.

Dew covers the cement.


The maple trees are decades

older.  Their foliage falls leaf

by leaf

after the rains yesterday

came down in a frenzy of anger.

I used to pick up the samaras,

open them, stick them on my nose

pretending I was Pinocchio.

I pull from the trunks a strand

of aliveness.


The ash trees look grayer.

Gardens covered with weeds,

bushes with thorns,


of untrimmed joy flowers.

I see the corner of 108th Street

and 69th Avenue

and its mailbox.


My mother told my sister to mail

a card to a friend with cancer.

My sister’s mittens were so thick,

she didn’t feel the envelope slip away.

The friend would die

without having received it.

Cruelties hang in the air



My conscience feels scorched.

The hills – a mother, the breeze –

a lover, comfort.

I round a sharp corner, a courtyard

of secrets. 

The flagstones screech.

I close my eyes and see blood.

Stones are older than the hatred

born here. 

I scoop up a part

of myself and carry it away.



Forceps: Poems about the Birth of the Self and Wendy’s recently published memoirs, The Enslaved Queen, 2014, and White Witch in a Black Robe, 2016, are available now:  http://www.karnacbooks.com/Product.asp?PID=35443 .  


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3 thoughts on “Karnac Books, London: FORCEPS– Poems about the Birth of the Self by Wendy Hoffman

  1. Wendy’s powerful poems linger in my memory. Thank you for letting us know about her new collection.


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