Opening Bundling feels like opening a cedar chest full of not only herstorical truths, and residue from elements once lived, but full also of the internal her-stories as yet untold. Woods uses collages, images, calligraphy, found texts and timely documents to bring the pass-ed voices into the living now. Violations and violences upon Her body are fully present, as well as the blood and gore of inhabiting female form: “with heath/ aether rich soil/a smoldering scent/ Her body/ cinders.”
Or opening Bundling is like holding a glowing faerie book, where sinful sirens’ sound emits. Seductively sonorous herstorical her stoical lyric documentary where history is a weave gathering in the Three Times. Bundling is, in practice and art form, Syncretistic, drawing together elements from many traditions. Bundling expands its legs wide across continents, mother-languages and narratives to take in large hard truths. The poems contract and expand in bundles and release in sacred flight Earth and peoples severed by colonial patriarchy’s narrow lexicon. “Sowans/ sewin her own/ language to/ speak to the spirits/ In.” Grabbing the phallus to write her view. “History is written/ by those who hold/ the Quill.” Here a synesthesia of spirit: ritual traditions correspond with newborn fruitions. She shakes up the glazed empirical colonial gaze: “there is no holy state/ as long as He profits/ all is taint.” She asks us to question precedent and embark upon that climb toward the Third Eye view: “How is this life/ interacting with/ the Others.”
A mistress of form, Woods wends the deconstructed sonnet and smashed ballad alongside the ghazal and explodes all with sapphic fragments that haunt and moan. Both a Poet’s poet and a folk poet, Woods embodies the human plight’s flight. A masterful work of many lifetimes, her wide weave takes up history and shakes it askew to examine our current quandaries. Intricately collaging sound, text and image, she renews history through fierce empathy. Casts a spell. The burdens and joys of the flesh. The spiritual is from the earth, “Mother May I hear/ The Green Goddess near/ Turn the wheel of the Tongue/ flicking clouds.” Against material duality, here poverty becomes a maternal richness. “‘The nearer the bone/ the sweeter/ the meat.’”
Bundling, like the female orgasm, goes on forever, pleasureful. Revivifying endless epiphanies, tingly. She shoots her wad into the stars. Cum-passion. Profoundly researched from source texts and listening with attuned empathy to myriad voices, “a kiss/ from spirits/ afore.” Intimacy counter to technocracy. Eros triumphs here. Despite innumerable obstacles, Love prevails. She straddles the fluid duality of male and female then weaves a wondrous Between: “Any body/ Could be/ Mother.” An epic épopée from a fluid and expansive mind. Yab-yum. You bundled to me. Oh holy now. I am in Love.
~ j/j hastain, Author of Priest/ess
Bundling is a vibrant powerhouse, at once fresh and ancient, sensuous and reverent. Heather Woods bears witness to society’s inhumanities while defending the sanctity of all beings in this collection. These poems move deftly between traditional forms such as couplet, illumination, persona, opus, and historical narrative into experimental hybrid, protest, and prayers for protection of the oppressed. Sonic rhapsodies, ingenious wordplay, and tantric unions provide divine sustenance as euphoric scenery and radiant tenderness shelter us through the night. This book is an exquisite treasure.
~ Lisa Panepinto, Author of Where I Come From the Fish Have Souls
Heather Woods’s Bundling understands how intimate strands of language hold us in anticipation for pleasure. Each poem is tightly wound to feel each intricate fiber, each delectable pulse. Here content is woven with form to conjure the tradition of bundling. As she quotes Hélène Cixous, “Real love is a / don’t touch, yet still an / almost-touching. / A phantom touching,” the real longing occurs within the lingering haunts of sensuality. As readers we are also just beyond grasp of physicality that leaves us enchanted by her text.
~ C. M. Chady, Author of Embodied Unconscious: the feminine space of sexuality, surrealism, and experimentation in literature
Bundling by Heather Woods is a master work, a tome of more than four hundred pages of sensually charged poetry exploring Bundling : to sleep in the same bed fully clothed, a custom formerly practiced in New England and the British Isles. With her wonderful sense of the music inherent in language, Heather Woods bundles a very progressive use of language, while never losing sight of the necessity of the poetry to be of use to the human condition. I remembered while reading that William Carlos Williams said: all art is sensual, Heather Woods’s poetry is successful, marvelous. It is poetry that remains consistently erotic and consistently poetically innovative and progressive. This is a magical event for poetry. Her poetry bundles need and want.
~ Michael Basinski, Author of Tub Bunny
Heather Woods’s Bundling—located in a Pagan/Christian eighteenth-century Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, faintly colored by pigments of Tibetan Buddhism—is a sensory investigation of coupling. In a plurality of voices and as visual spectacle, these experiential poems sing of the fluidity that combines personal and cultural customs, beginning with “bundling,” a courting tradition in which couples are wrapped and bound to sexually enrapture one another. From bundling to delivering a bundle of joy, Bundling basks in the slippery, the smear, the waxy, the excrement, the slathering of the bawdy spirit of the body for the most human of pleasures. Many of the peak moments conveyed are prayers of lovers’ mystery, uttered under the dim glow of moonlight. Languages bound and bundled to time and place disrobe and marry in these poems, unveiling deep roots of intimacy and humor.
~ Martine Bellen, Author of Ghosts!
bundling is a splendid grace of generosity. it opens itself to a myriad of other texts of desire, of our human urgency for physical intimacy at the heart of spiritual and emotional connection. the food of life. and it is generous in being a kind of medieval illuminated book, whose design simply delights. heather woods’s original writing, her poems herein, variously lyrically coy, subtly nimble, openly inviting—inspire all of this in all of us.
~ Martin Nakell, Author of consciousness
Heather Woods unveils the polite yet brutal custom of “bundling,” surreptitiously revealing lust and its lush curtain of seduction, as it becomes clear that bundling, cruel as it may have been, represents the art of foreplay, which goes on subtly and secretly, initiating true caution, true fear, true as guardians of the heart/mind/body on the ornate precipice of desire—that ornateness represented in the elaborate design of this remarkable book, an extravagantly illustrated volume. Weaving together (beyond mere bundling) external texts with her own poetry, Woods writes demurely sensuous poems which can’t help but entice us into a very satiating reading experience.
~ Rebecca Goodman, Author of Forgotten Night
Bundling is what we have from a poet’s trance of overhearing, a record of bundlers’ night-long talks. Heather Woods’s intimate poem of many pages is throughout so thoroughly human that it seems the very future of feminism. Historical bundling kept courting couples warm in a chaste bed; but the church-sanctioned practice also enabled the creation of private worlds of lovers’ pillow talk in an otherwise workaday existence. In Woods’s treatment, the dualities of bundling become a grand subject. Looking back to imagine, the bundling bag and board appear to be inventions of both pious practicality and erotic encasement… But Woods has not written a book of titillating curiosities, and she assiduously eschews bundling as Americana… Woods imagines instead a rich folk anthropology, the poems arriving in bundles upon her “sewin her own // language to // speak to the spirits.” Spirit practitioners of bundling come up and witness, more like Homer than Yeats, in the voices of farming and husbandry, male and female, Ruth but also Boaz, to speak through the poet who does not speak for them, much as it is for Odysseus in Book 11. Swedenborg, a key source for the poem, believed that gender survives death (Conjugal Love). Notably, Woods’ rendering in open form of what turns out to be the big bag of bundling, and using the bundling board to write upon, unzips the once dichotomy and insists that Mind must form its freedom. One participant’s ecstatic state outstrips the boundaries of even Lorine Niedecker, whose page remained bound for life to her Objectivist lineage:
I’m gonna stretch
No sensible words
Between My lips
Make Yer own meaning
A product of poetic bundling is meaning, and making your own meaning… Bundling is Woods’s metaphor for metaphor, or the way fictions work in what Gerald Murnane calls the Mind, by the art of binding what must remain separateness. For the fortunate ones, bundling can make a diagram of influence, a love line between writers that is more than a glossary of poetic affinities. Pound launched the ship of Modernism on gushes about customs of love and a trickle of redactions from Remy de Gourmont and Cavalcanti. I have come to bundle Bundling with Niedecker’s late masterpieces, picturing their talk making little white clouds inside the cold darkness. To prepare for writing this essay, I have several times alternated re-readings from Woods’s poem and Niedecker’s poem. Then I came across Murnane’s confession that he has fallen in love for life with female characters in his books; this bundling being, after all, a surfeit of love in the mind.
~ Richard Blevins, Author of The Art of the Serial Poem
Congratulations on this amazing tome, so rich in thought, word, sound, dharma, serious wit.
O kindred Spirit!
‘We have ignorantly slumbered and pray the fierce lions rise’—a glorious rousing incentive crouched within the ethos of the formidable Heather Woods. All praise.
~ Anne Waldman, Author of Sanctuary
Heather Woods is the author of Light Bearing (Spuyten Duyvil 2015) and Still Shall Hear a Calling Bell (Spuyten Duyvil 2022). Her work was recently featured in the award-winning indie documentary: Poetry, New York, and the anthology: Resist Much Obey Little: Inaugural Poems of the Resistance (Dispatches Editions). By day, she teaches writing to students of all ages; by dawn, she selects and edits books for publication. She served as a member of Kelsey St Press in Berkeley and founded Persimmons literary magazine at Kenyon College. There she studied poetry, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, her native home. (Before her, four generations of her matrilineal ancestors and five of her patrilineal ancestors settled in the Golden State.) Seeking sustainable simplicity, Woods moved across the wide country to a wild woodland jutting off the Northern Atlantic Coast. Here she dwells with her beloved in a nearly two-hundred-year-old ship-mason’s home.