Kara Knickerbocker

Poet. Author. Madwoman.

Kara’s poems can take us just to the edge, teetering on the brink, through a mastery of the senses and an unapologetic voice she transforms the ordinary into unnerving and unexpected landscapes. Sometimes I feel as if she leads, but mostly I feel she asks us to walk alongside her, and look into the abyss, and name our hunger. —Ava C. Cipri, author of Leaving The Burdened Ground


The best poetry is about more than what it seems to be. We might describe The Shedding Before the Swell as a collection of poems that exquisitely captures the tactile shifts of seasons or the strong, deceptively simple bonds of family. Truly, though, the key to this chapbook is Kara Knickerbocker’s welcoming voice, which leads us to insights that eclipse notions of relationships or shifts in time. The poet creates her own personal landscapes, but she leaves room for us to identify ourselves within them.

—Daniel M. Shapiro, author of How the Potato Chip Was Invented

Kara Knickerbocker is a young poet whose voice is already distinctive, commanding a space on the page which is refreshingly imaginative, intelligent and warm. Her poems speak of family, memories of growing up, loss and love – displaying an emotional maturity which is inspiring. In The Shedding Before the Swell we encounter poems imbued with their own unique vitality, often dreamy in tone, which draw us back to them over and over, never failing as they do, to impress.

—Enda Wyley, author of  Borrowed Space, New and Selected Poems

In language both lyrical and concise, Knickerbocker gives us insightful poems about security, whether we can ever truly have it, and if we can live without it, all overshadowed by how slender the thread of our mortality, no matter our age. They manage by turns to be both heartbreaking and uplifting, but never dull. Next to Everything that is Breakable is a strong first book from a writer we’ll be hearing much more from in the future.

—Michael Albright, author of In the Hall of Dead Birds and Viking Tools


Next to Everything that is Breakable by Kara Knickerbocker is a terrific book of passion and mortality. These poems open us to our own frailties and the insistent restlessness that makes us human. With an unrelenting voice that finds home in the body, Knickerbocker states: …there was something/within the chamber/I couldn’t point to/barreling through me/just the same. As this voice grows even more raw, it leaps into ruin both physical and beyond: They carved a slice in my warm bread of a body/served the scar sunny-side up…

This is a brave writer who spins darkness to light, carvings into survival.

—Jan Beatty, author of Jackknife: New and Selected Poems

“The ghosts in Kara Knickerbocker’s debut chapbook Next to Everything that is Breakable may wear bulletproof vests, but the speaker does not. She is riddled time and again with the holes left by lost loves and lost innocence. The broken body is front and center in this collection with every poem calling on different body parts to show their frailties and vulnerabilities, always with a deft use of tactile imagery, but these poems don’t leave the reader or the speaker unmended. These poems stitch cuts from shards of a bottle, these poems recalibrate a heartbeat, these poems lead to a new definition of the body, of the self. Knickerbocker reminds us to “[s]ay how important is is / to still know your own skin below / when it all peels away.”

—Jennifer Jackson Berry, author of The Feeder

Kara Knickerbocker’s Next to Everything that is Breakable is a brilliant debut, blackberried and full…It’s a book that examines the body in all its glory and weakness, from sex in a childhood bedroom to a swollen bruised heart, this book takes aim at what it means to be young, to love, to face illness, to encounter the self with all safeties off.

—Tess Barry