Garden Effigies | Sara Henning

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I’m an alibi / for salvage,” Sara Henning proclaims in Garden Effigies. The creatures – human and otherwise – who inhabit these poems are “singed by intimacy” and “stunned by entanglement /or paradox.” This poet’s alibis are not denials of presence or involvement, but explorations of how the stories we salvage can be transformed into songs, murmurations, “the most usable truth(s).”

Grace Bauer, author of Nowhere All At Once


The poems in Garden Effigies are as likely to break open like moonflowers or walnuts as they are to "horde light", an opening and closing the comes like a gasping for air.  And it doesn't let up--it "gains luster to fall apart" and sings us a song of mourning so wounded and so sweet, it will not let you go.
-Erin Elizabeth Smith



“Instead of paradox, / I’ll horde light, willow bark’s / sap-ridden tenderness,” states the speaker of “Pliancy” in Sara Henning’s haunting new chapbook, Garden Effigies. Henning’s poems whisper secrets to their readers, and impress with their use of both prose lines and deft lyrical stanzas. The characters of this collection inhabit a world of strangeness, desire, and wonder, confronting various types of peril and examining them with a cool eye. Garden Effigies reminds us that chapbooks can be the most powerful collections of poetry: intense, provocative, and surprising at every turn.


--Mary Biddinger, author of A Sunny Place with Adequate Water



Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink, 2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012).  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Crazyhorse, Quarterly West, Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, and RHINO. Winner of the 2015 Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, she is currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as assistant managing editor for the South Dakota Review, assistant editor of Rogue Agent, and as associate editor of Sundress Publications. Please visit her at her electronic home at







When her girlfriend

pretended to be ransomed


by water, my ten-year-old

mother dove after


the luster of bathing suit

breaching a reckless


tide, blonde hair sheening

like a jellyfish pulses


in flotsam and milky lacquer.

The girl’s laugh


like a cleaving oyster.

My mother still under her,


spitting up shame and spume. 

Every unburied delta


that moved through her body

became a torrent


disgracing her starboard.

Every lover exploiting her


water’s plush vertigo, a lesson

in spindrifts, sternways,


shells that sliver her toes. 

Like her, I’ll learn to hold


my breath until I’m grit

and glitter, cull and foam.


Until I confuse love

for mooring, the horizon’s


tide-ward fallowness,

not one more ruthless pull.