Tremulous Hinge

University of Iowa Press, 2017

Cover art: Valerie Roybal

Iowa Poetry Prize, 2016

Honorable Mention, Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, 2018

Finalist, Utah 15 Bytes Book Award for Poetry, 2018

Finalist, Julie Suk Award, 2017

Starred review, Publishers Weekly

Rain intermits, bus windows steam up, loved ones suffer from dementia—in the shifting, metaphoric world of Tremulous Hinge, figures struggle to remain standing and speaking against forces of gravity, time, and language. From the difficulties of stuttering to teetering attempts at love, these poems tumble and hum, revealing a hinge between word and world.

“This extraordinary and sobering debut begins with a literal stutter—‘Since I couldn’t say tomorrow/ I said Wednesday.’ In trade for this impediment, Adam Giannelli finds that, in poetry, what can’t be said gives way to what must be said.”

Craig Morgan Teicher, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

“Adam Giannelli talks to the world—to rain, to insomnia, to the beloveds here and vanished, to the stars themselves in their ‘old staring contest.’ Sink into this book as into solace and trouble. ‘Am I lost/ or have I been lifted?’ the poet asks. Answer: happily for us, both.”

Marianne Boruch

“Rilke meets Roethke in the beveled moptops of a hydrangea, a basketball net’s ‘punctured sieve,’ a rogue porcupine (‘quilled, in dark makeup, like the bass player/ in an 80s band’), all transformed, in Giannelli’s scrupulous, sonically lavish articulation, into emblems of the unspeakable mystery inside every syllable. Inside us.”

Lisa Russ Spaar

“In this stunning debut collection, the observations of an often-solitary speaker explode in dazzling metaphors, unexpected juxtapositions, and challenging insights. Elegy becomes explicit as the book progresses, met in the final sections by poems of relationship. But the note of loss remains: ‘What we’ve lost swims/ under the surface of mirrors’—and in these extraordinary poems.”

Martha Collins



“Giannelli’s debut is a quiet affair, but its simplicity masks layers and a longing for precision exhibited through minute adjustments, tweaked phrases, and shifting imagery….Though perfect expression may be unattainable, poetry is often about the process, and it is a pleasure to watch Giannelli work (and rework) his magic.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“‘Stutter,’ the first poem of this deftly observed debut collection, opens with the lines ‘since I couldn’t say tomorrow/ I said Wednesday’ and continues affectingly through words substituted for those harder to utter until the final, lovely line, ‘a puddle shorn from the storm.’ Here’s a man who’s really had to grapple with language, thinks the reader, and it shows.”

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Giannelli becomes something like the Van Gogh of poetry, spreading inch-thick paint, a gutsy, gaudy bravado meant to draw as much, or more, attention to the medium as to the message. And read in the context of the whole book, this thickness of application isn’t merely decorative, nor is it self-indulgent. It represents a hard-won triumph of language, a high-stakes construction of the self.”

Michael Lavers, 32 Poems

“Adam Giannelli’s debut collection of poems, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, introduces a virtuoso lyrical voice to American poetry.”

Pamela Alexander, FIELD

“In his debut collection, Giannelli shows he’s absorbed the lessons of the masters and found his own strong voice. Along with an attention to detail that’s almost Metaphysical in its rich fluidity, he has a Marianne Moore-ish precision and fascination with patterns; a porcupine isn’t bristly, but exhibits ‘an erratic/ smooth.’ A knot in wood is an ‘ingrown shadow.’”

Laurie Greer, Politics and Prose Bookstore (staff pick)

“What is unique about Adam Giannelli’s work is the organic way it seems to come into being. His deeply earnest poems, often based on extended immersions in nature, don’t spell out any overt themes....The project (if one can use such a definitive-sounding word) is for us to see with new eyes, without preconceptions.” 

Alex M. Frankel, Antioch Review

“The poems in this collection attend the gap between language and communication in the human world. Ultimately, the speaker revels in this space—not as void, but possibility. There isn’t one way to understand the world, or one word that means one thing to everyone.”

Chelsea Dingman, Western Humanities Review

“This collection zeros in on the briefest of moments in an ever-moving world.”

E. Ce Miller, Bustle

“Adam Giannelli’s Tremulous Hinge is a portrait of the poet making a choice to live by language—language that, like the rest of life, doesn’t always come easily, that may come in fits and starts and stutters, as we see in the first poem of his collection.”

15 Bytes

“[Giannelli] is able to display the conflict of time and language in the minutia of everyday life."

Aminah Abutayeb, The Literary Review