The Spectral Wilderness

The Spectral WildernessSelected by Mark Doty for the 2013 Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize | Kent State University Press 2015

Doty writes in the introduction, “It’s a joy to come nearer to a realm of experience little explored in American poetry, the lives of those who are engaged in the complex project of transforming their own gender… Oliver Bendorf writes from a paradoxical, new-world position: the adult voice of a man who has just appeared in the world. A man emergent, a man in love, alive in the fluid instability of any category.”

Best Poetry Book of 2014— Entropy Magazine
30 Must-Read Poetry Debuts from 2015 — Lithub
Spectacular Books of 2015 — Split This Rock
Finalist, 2016 Publishing Triangle Thom Gunn Poetry Award

“Bendorf’s poems give us all we have ever wanted, to wake up and feel that the body we are in is ours, that the hands on the ends of our wrists—our body’s gates of tenderness—are large enough to hold in them all the things we have desired.” —Natalie Diaz, author of When My Brother Was An Aztec

Purchase The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State University Press, 2015)

“Astonishing.” —The Literary Review

“Oliver Bendorf’s poems draw unflinching attention to the process of making… Bendorf strips a poem to its scaffold with an honesty that is at once funny and unbearably sad.” —Blackbird

“Bendorf’s collection indeed opens the door to a spectral wilderness, an otherworldly pastoral, a queer ecology endlessly transformed by possibility, grief, and the unruly wanting of our names and bodies. Stunningly lyrical and beautifully theoretical, The Spectral Wilderness is an invitation one cannot turn down; the book calls us to travel with Bendorf, to study the topography of becoming because ‘what we used to be matters’ in the way that language matters— however fleeting, however mistaken, however contradictory it might be.” —Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography

“What gorgeous and ravenous rackets Oliver Bendorf’s poems are made of; what a yearning and beautiful heart. ‘Lift a geode from the ground and crack me open,’ he writes, which is more or less what these poems do for me: break me open to what might sparkle and blaze, what might glisten and burn inside. The Spectral Wilderness is a wonderful book.” —Ross Gay, author of Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down

“The Spectral Wilderness is full of beautiful little bodies, written into being (into becoming) by a maker from whom we’ll continue to be amazed and enchanted.” —Lambda Literary

“The poems of The Spectral Wilderness weave making with loss, capturing the ghost.” —Southeast Review

“No transitioning man is an island… this [is] a collection of rare insight.” –Poetry Matters

Sample Poems

“I Promised Her My Hands Wouldn’t Get Any Larger”
(Ninth Letter & Best New Poets 2012)

“Outing, Iowa” and “Split it Open Just to Count the Pieces”
(Drunken Boat)

(Indiana Review)

“No Billboards in Vermont,” “Make Believe,” and “Love and the Bodega”
(Tupelo Quarterly)


Poetry Society of America

Southeast Review

Lambda Literary 

Baltimore Gay Life 

The Literary Review