The Original Instructions for the Perfect Preservation of Birds &c. by Carey McHugh

Winner of the 2007 PSA Chapbook Fellowship

The Original Instructions for the Perfect Preservation of Birds &c. by Carey McHugh, selected and introduced by Rae Armantrout.

Edition: 500 copies of the winning books were printed by the Prolific Group and designed by Gabriele Wilson.


It is not always easy to say what these poems are “about”—and that’s fine with me. It has something to do with the warp and weft of the world’s ongoing creation/destruction, the crosshatch of care and loss. I like the way it moves. This is fierce poetry.

—Rae Armantrout

Cannery Manned by Patients

Clarity, now and again, hems us in overhead
like a cylinder up and slow, or from below,

awareness muscled loose runs fox-sized, momentarily
red. We are forbidden during working hours to consider

headwaters, knotted fillnet threads, the pale setback
of salmon. Though farther north the banks are wide

with drought. We have stopped believing in doubt,
have learned to measure heft in tonnage and lined sack.

Among us someone has singled out monotony, locked
it in, dropping as we assemble, as if from hand or eye

a boxed rhythm we are fighting. All night belted here,
fingers loose on bolts and cobs. The stale business of tackle

to sift through. Here the sick collect. And the slack strain
of the jagging wheel rolls tongueless in its kick.

All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

More chapbooks

I Watch the Boughs

Emily Lee Luan

See Details

Superstitions of the Mid-Atlantic

Margaret Ray

See Details

The Last Town Before the Mojave

Nathan Xavier Osorio

See Details

Dear God

Ethan Stebbins

See Details

More from the shop

Poetry In Motion

For fans of the beloved public arts program

See All
PSA Award Winning Books

A selection of collections by PSA award-winning poets

See All
Broadsides Etc.

Collectible editions of treasured poems

See All