Books by Wells

Pruning Burning Bushes

ISBN: 978-1-62032-330-4
Pages: 88
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Wipf and Stock Publishers

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Read the first poem in the book, "Cascade Valley," published by Ascent

Praise for Pruning Burning Bushes:
  • Reviewed in Common Threads, by Sharon Fish Mooney
  • Reviewed on Rattle, by Mary Sayler
  • Reviewed on Englewood Review of Books, by Jennifer Moland-Kovash
  • Reviewed on Antler, by Brad Fruhauff, editor of Relief Journal 
  • Reviewed in Image Update:
    In her poetry collection Pruning Burning Bushes Sarah M. Wells delves into the rich ground of detail to turn up the "casual miracle" of what lives beneath. "Settle your shifting gaze," she writes, then prunes through images of childhood, marriage, family, birth, and death, "cutting back two-thirds of growth / to trigger recovery from the trunk up." From the rural to the urban, the aging to the newly born, the honky-tonk to the quilting club, the imagery she's been given is not only tended with "sighing, sweating, fists on hips, pruners / lost in the grass" but also with a compassion and spirit "reckless with praise and the need to be filled." In her recent essay in Poets Quarterly, Wells speaks as a writer whose work is faith-based—she says her joy in poetry "is discovering something I'd never known or felt before, my body nodding, yes, yes, that is it, there it is, the divine indwelt. And then this greater joy: to share that experience with another human being through the written word, poet and reader, a small community of believers who are now gathered in worship around this little altar." Whether as altar builder or gardener, Wells's work is inspired. As poet Sydney Lea writes, "Wells has been granted—and she knows it—the grace to eat life right down to the seed, where the joy of the mystery lies, and the peace that passes understanding."
- from Image Update, September 19, 2012 

Wells has been granted – and she knows it – the grace to eat life right down to the seed, where the joy of the mystery lies, and the peace that passes understanding. Deft and inventive with strict form, with ambitious narrative, and with the poignant perspective, when called for, that comes of becoming a small child, Wells equally thrives on the merest simplisms of faith, on the densest meditation, and above all on her experience of full humanity, turning all to stunningly cogent advantage.
-          Sydney Lea, author of Six Sundays toward a Seventh

Sarah Wells' droll, evocative title perfectly fits her collection of poems, a series of "double exposures" that superimpose the biblical on a background of rural Ohio. Finely drawn farm implements, cows, carpentry, kitchens, roadkill, predatory sparrows, pool tables—all of it living and complete—coexist with figures from the Old Testament and the New: Dinah and Levi, Jesus, Eve as a na├»ve visitor in the carnival of the world, and her arch enemy—"the Predator"—in the guise of a sleazy Ferris wheel operator.

On that quilt-like ground, individual poems rich in the specifics of their time and place offer scenes from married life and motherhood, aging, and the process of accepting (but not erasing) inevitable losses, gorgeously compared to the aftertaste of raspberries, that "precious, fragile fruit" we eat in greedy haste.

This is a book to savor, not in haste but slowly, so as to enjoy the unobtrusive rightness of the language, the mature but unjaded view of the human condition, the depth under the playfulness. These poems remind me that to prune is to shape and nurture what the gardener values.
- Rhina Espaillat, author of Her Place in These Designs

Where Suburbans "honk and veer" behind a neighbor's combine and Jesus walks into a bar to play pool with farmers, the poems of Sarah Wells study those juxtapositions of the urban and the rural, the wild and the agrarian which we live with in this country often without noticing. She notices and responds with the empathy of Theodore Roethke for the vulnerable non-human world and the visionary understanding of St. John of Patmos who knew a sign when he saw one. It is a pleasure to read a book of poetry dedicated to 'spirits reckless with praise and the need to be filled."
- Mark Jarman, author of Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems

"Pruning Burning Bushes balances Wells's spiritual life with humor; there's the bawdy life of carnivals and yet a true spiritual practice mixed harmoniously in. The personality of the author comes through attractively."
—Sandra McPherson, author of Expectation Days


Sarah M. Wells is also the author of the poetry chapbook, Acquiesce, winner of the Starting Gate Award and featured in the New Women's Voices Series through Finishing Line Press (March 2009). Available through

Praise for Acquiesce:
I've been leafing through Acquiesce again, and feel compelled to mention how wonderful this book is. It reminds me of the Roman Georgics in which classical poets give advice on farming and horticulture and animal husbandry and so forth: the poems have the same unstrained naturalness, the same perfectly grounded concern with the human condition, the same expert's eye for the details that matter. You notice how a marigold begins to dry up, how a horse would have to be buried, how there is something unexpectedly erotic about the three-cornered affair involving the bee, the honeysuckle, and the human being armed with red sugar-water! You notice everything, in fact, whether you're looking at the natural world or the human one, even thoughts in a laundromat and the private listing of our regrets, as in "Remorse." And--here's where the poet enters--you make me notice everything too. Brava! - Rhina Espaillat

In Acquiesce, Sarah Wells writes with an intense clarity, poems so beautiful on the surface that the gravity of their depths takes your breath away. Wells excavates the burdens and blessings of a given life with lyric elegance, with frank candor, and with a wisdom rare in poetry today. This is an amazing debut. - Eric Pankey

Sarah Wells is a young poet who writes with a command of language and form, an originality of subject matter, and a depth of insight. It is a pleasure to read her fine poems, and we will be hearing more of her refreshing and true voice. - Michael Miller

Calm, observant, yet full of deep feeling and vulnerability, the poems in Sarah Wells' first chapbook move the reader with their mature wisdom about human endurance, their grasp of natural rhythms, their faith. Whether set in the farmland of the midwest or the far reaches of New Zealand, their impulse is to find balance between the inner and outer worlds. Acquiesce is at once a promising beginning to this poet's career and a genuine, poised achievement. - Floyd Skloot, author of The Snow's Music and The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life

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