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Poetry. It seems you could hold these poems in your hands and feel the heft of night air and snow and chisels and living, in all its hardship and splendor. The wonderfully varied compositions circle and expand: a sequence of couplets, lightly cadenced narratives, and then suddenly verses of gorgeous, heavy wrought stresses. (The pecan boughs in We in the Republic, for instance, 'stretched and heavy with the hard fruit, stitch shade across the tended plot.') Houle has a gift for slowing down already singular moments, offering us the last hanging drop of childhood innocence in We'd Learn Later Her Husband Left and the hard end of a hard work day in Work/Work Balance. Revealing deep moods and masculinities and finely punctuated with the indifferent wisdom of bees, dogs, wasps, and flies, STRAY exploits every possible meaning of its title--dog, child, what is misplaced or roaming--and settles at last on the imperative. --Martha Serpas.