top of page

The Body Problem
poems by Margaret Wack

Winner of The 2021 Orison Chapbook Prize


Orison Books
paper  /  38 pp.  /  $14.00
ISBN: 978-1-949039-40-5

Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
952-223-8373  /
Publication Date: March 7, 2023




The voice in Margaret Wack's remarkable debut chapbook is drenched in myth but also with the knowledge that all myths must fade in time, like every body, like every culture—like humanity itself. A vatic magnetism pulls the reader in as these poems reckon with impermanence and the impending end of the Anthropocene, but also unapologetically revel in the numinous viscerality of each present moment, insisting on making new songs to the end.



"This is a first collection from a daring and artful new poet that captures contemporary themes of Anthropocene decay and femme body discomfort with a bitten intensity of language. Ruby red with blood and juice, Margaret Wack’s collection mesmerizes."
Elizabeth Sylvia, Muzzle Magazine

"Visceral, vivid, voracious—what struck me most in Margaret Wack’s stunningly lush The Body Problem is how organic it is. Organic in the way of the densest heart of an old growth forest, where green bubbles up from decay and wood sinks into soil in a relentless cycle of wild abundance. 'You must be born each instant and rot each hour,' Wack declares as her images build on themselves like amino acids, proliferate like cells, and transform like 'flowers of fungi will bloom upon your bones.' Just as life, in all its vast variety, is composed of the same handful of elements, these poems are made of timeless ingredients—blood and honey, bone and ash, the flint and fire of fairytale and myth—yet each blossoms into a uniquely beautiful organism. And together, they form a mesmeric world, teeming with ruin and rapture."
—Erin Rodoni

"The Body Problem is a field guide to a world fluttering between promise and ruin, where ripeness is always turning the corner into rot. There is too much to harvest, too much to hunger for. Like Tantalus, we reach and reach, but 'cannot possibly close our hands upon the sweetness of it.' And the problem with time is that there is never enough of it. The problem with the body is that it will inevitably 'rot like a peony, over-plump and full of starving ants.' So be it. If these poems feel timely right now—if it feels like the world is pulsing with losses beyond calculation—Wack reminds us that some problems are timeless. We are no more or less cursed than we've ever been, no more or less desperate for beauty or survival. We steady ourselves with myth, and we will become the myths that steady whoever comes next. Like the world they describe, Wack's poems hum with both romance and tragedy, full of a richness that 'seeps in like honey wine, gets gold all over everything.' They urge us to love the world in whatever perverse, brutal way we can. To love the world in the way we always have."
—Claire Wahmanholm


"The Body Problem comes 'caught on the edge / of a new century like a colt on its raw legs in the first darkness.' Margaret Wack has given us a work in which love and instinct offer return from the letdowns of what we've been calling enlightenment. Reading this book means realizing you've had 'your back pressed up against the world,' the same world we've learned to 'navigate by touch alone.' Like the rain the poet's speaker describes, The Body Problem won't clean you of yourself, but offers a world swallowed in its own thick atmosphere."

—C.T. Salazar



Margaret Wack's work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including EcoTheo Review, Ruminate, Passages North, Grist, Arion, Strange Horizons, Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Smith College and an interdisciplinary master's degree from St. John's College.




Do Not Ask for Metamorphosis


I know just how the flesh would carve

open, like a flower. It isn't morbid.

It's merely practical. I am no physician

but have practiced drawing the knife

from the clavicle down. How everything

blooms outward. When the baby is breech

they do just this, remove each organ lovingly

and with precision. The body a vessel.


The baby a nesting doll. Blood all the way

down. Is it more difficult to sculpt the body

from flesh, from stone, from the more

malleable metals? Oh cold immaculate

Aphrodite, did it hurt to be born

backwards, up out of the shining wave-tossed

sea, wreathed in incestuous foam? How long

did you spend scuttling and submerged


before you emerged virginal and glistening?

Carved from stubborn stone, every part

of you struck mercilessly until you became

beautiful? I am sick of such miraculous

transformation. I would rather be a laurel tree,

slender and beyond reproach. I am tired of the constant

humming of terrible desire. I am bewitched

by my neck in the mirror, the soft muscle. Where the hands


would go. Where the knife. Where the pearls. I am not

a physician but I know the cure for this: run

the body like a sleek, obedient dog until it stops

running. Lowing and stung ever onward. Fast

and pray until a god appears to you as a bird,

the rain, the color blue. Carve yourself from yourself

like a glistening jewel, wear it on your little finger

and demand to be paid reverence. Proffer yourself


to be kissed by the hungry mouths of confused

worshippers. Pray that the egg in your abdomen

is some exalted hero, born already armored, hymns

already snaking through the syllables of their name.

Do not ask for doomed daughters. Do not ask for

metamorphosis: it is something that must come

upon you unawares, like a blow, like a kiss,

like the moment that you catch and burn.

The Body Problem, poems by Margaret Wack

$14.00 Regular Price
$12.00Sale Price
bottom of page