Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Uncanny Valley by Jon Woodward



Uncanny Valley
by Jon Woodward

Winner of the 2011 Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition. The unforgettable, idiosyncratic poems in Woodward's highly musical and obsessively incantatory third collection bring to mind the metaphysical voids of Samuel Beckett's plays and the voyages of Charles Darwin as they rediscover and seek to inhabit an uncomfortably familiar natural world: "A hurricane came and caused the land to open. / Also fire, pestilence, and benevolent compassion. / Much later there was a terrible car accident. / Whatever or whatever climbed out of the wreck alive."

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The Volta Review

Jon Woodward's UNCANNY VALLEY is a September best-seller at SPD!

Jon Woodward's UNCANNY VALLEY is a July bestseller at SPD!



Jon Woodward's previous books are Rain (Wave Books) and Mister Goodbye Easter Island (Alice James Books). He lives in Boston and works at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Please visit him at




The janitor asked me
how to pronounce the creature’s name
& I said salamander for him.

He looked at it on the screen
and I looked at him.

Slide your legs into its tail I said.
I can’t he said as he did.
Feed your guts there into its cavity

of guts, I can’t he said (manifestly untrue
because he did). Mash the thing’s
name and yours I said together into

that irreversible hole I know you keep
and he did & it broke over his face

& flowed, water from the earth,
I can’t, I can’t, he said.



"This is a strange book: visionary and dark. It stutters out a kind of music: repeated phrases which accumulate errors and mutate as they go like chromosomes or, as Woodward puts it better, "visibile fissile ribbons." It's as if we were present for the moments of creation and extinction. Uncanny Valley is ominous and beautiful". —Rae Armantrout

"When I first encountered the poems of Jon Woodward, I was stunned into the state that is my life's joy—I was in the presence of the inimitable. Uncanny Valley extends that experience-- almost into another dimension. These apocalyptic, pixiliated poems forge a mythology of our ravaged culture, one that might have been written in the future. If you want poetry to give you a persimmon on a plate, look elsewhere; if you want to know what happens when seven trees fall on the highway and the story is told by a stutterer, this is the book, and it could only have been written by Woodward." —Mary Ruefle