A Girl Goes into the Woods
Selected Poems

by Lyn Lifshin

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: NYQ Books (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935520326
ISBN-13: 978-1935520320
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
Library of Congress Control Number:  2013932938


Sample Poems below

Please check Amazon.com, and NYQBooks to obtain your copy.

New York Quarterly Press Release

newReview by Victor Schwartzman
Target Audience Poetry Editor

Interview with The Toronto Quarterly

A Girl Goes Into the Woods by Lyn Lifshin

Cover Art:  Sleep Anywhere

Good Reads recommends:

In her biggest, most varied selection of poems, A GIRL GOES INTO THE WOODS, Lyn Lifshin's intimate, intense, startling poems range from the adolescent experiences any young (or not so young) woman can identify with, to the roller coaster ride of agony to ecstasy of relationships. In her unique and magical way she explores the complicated, mysterious, ambivalent relationship between mothers and daughters, that constantly changing braid of pain and joy, of control and rebellion and then the reverse, as the daughter becomes the mother and the deaths of stages of the relationship continue. The book takes us into the immigrant experience, the ravages of Auschwitz, to Hiroshima, Vietnam, Iraq and September 11 as well as natural disasters like Katrina, the 2005 Indonesia tsunami, the Japanese tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She lets us into the world of mad girls, Madonnas, dancers and shares secrets of poets from Robert Frost, who praised her early poems, to Dylan Thomas and Garcia Lorca. Lifshin gives us moments in Paris, Quebec, the Caribbean and Costa Rico and plunges us into the beauty of Southwestern ruins, quiet New England snowscapes, Midwestern roads with a radio playing and special moments with horses and cats, summer lakes and the firefly filled nights in the town in which she grew up.



Like a beautiful bracelet set with precious stones and glinting with the mysteries of identity in childhood and relationships, A Girl Goes into the Woods contains Barbies, war, ballet, horses, geese and flowers. There are recollections of sweet fruits offered by Lyn's mother and waiting to be asked to dance, encounters with lovers and what it was like for her relatives to come to America. A cornucopia of a very full life, this book is written as only Lyn Lifshin can write, filled with the vitality of what it's like to be female and therefore, to be human.

—Christina Zawadiwsky

I love the way [A Girl Goes into the Woods] deals with the transience of life related to the seasons, the sky lights, intimate relationships. Sex now, sex lost, sex reborn. Families, everything in the context of Moving Time. Paris, some local forest/park, everything talks to you, gets inside you and always keeps whispering "Transience. Grab on to what you have, the Now, however it is, as it melts around/inside you."

—Hugh Fox

A Girl Goes into the Woods explores the was/ is/ might be. This volume is very much Lyn Lifshin…translating things we feel but cannot articulate, we are exposed…our hands held by the author. In Ms. Lifshin's distinctive style, this collection takes the reader to every emotional corner. The reader will discover and rediscover the real and the imagined. A Girl Goes into the Woods shows Ms. Lifshin’s mastery; her art and artifice will surprise no one and delight everyone.

You are an Immortal…a thousand years from now, whenever there's a course in 20th - 21st century American poetry, you'll be there.

Hugh Fox
January 22, 2011



From the first time I  laid eyes on a Lifshin poem, I was smitten, and more than three decades later, her poems still make adrenaline surge through my body, still make me want to sing Hallelujah all over the streets, still smack me in the solar plexus and make me gasp for breath, while leaving her indelible hot-poker stamp upon my psyche. They sizzle and sear, get right under our flesh, and inside our bones. Charming, mystical, magical — her whimsical yet wistful tone and sharp, clipped syntax are why her readers are still enamored of her and, no matter how much work of hers we read, we clamor for more. She proves that poets need not have a gimmick — just a genuine voice that sings the body electric. Whether she’s the mad girl, the feminist Barbie, the chubby-adolescent-turned-beauty, the loving daughter, the jilted lover, or the prima ballerina, she is always the poet who taps into something primal; whose images bump and grind in a sensual dance; who sees, and observes, through kaleidoscope eyes. Lifshin emerges as the girl who has gone far into the woods; for sure, Lyn’s woods are as “dark and deep” as Frost’s, and often endowed with Thoreau’s serenity, but the colorful forest fires are all of her own making! This big, fat, juicy compilation represents the perfect marriage of giddy youth (reckless and invincible) with the reflective wisdom of hindsight — and it is a testament to Lyn’s talents that, old and new, her poems have lost none of their luster along the way. And here’s the amazing thing — just when all the fiery red hair and black velvet raiments have put us in a hypnotic daze worthy of Vogue magazine, she takes a turn for the deeply profound, weaving tapestries of trauma, from Auschwitz, to the Vietnam War, to the ravages of cancer, to men with missing limbs, and pieces of humanity gone. She startles us with jolts of nostalgia, naming names, giving addresses, and taking no prisoners. While reading the poignant poems about the immigrant experience of her ancestors, you are there on that boat towards Ellis Island; you can literally smell the sea salt and the sweat of fear and the hope of making good in the new land; you are with her as she shares the griefs of tragedy and the joys of everyday living. She is, arguably, our most enduring and compelling contemporary poet, and for all her prodigious output, this latest book is the definitive collection of her extensive and impressive body of work — a must-have-on-your-literary-shelf for longtime Lifshin fans, and a special treat for those young poets who have yet to discover her. And now I just realized what Lyn Lifshin’s “secret ingredient” is. She always, ALWAYS gives us a piece of her golden heart.

--Cindy Hochman, Editor-in-Chief of First Literary Review-East,
Associate Editor of Mobius, the Poetry Magazine, and author of
"The Carcinogenic Bride"

Ted Roberts

A wunderbar book. I love the way it deals with the transience of life related to the seasons, the sky lights, intimate relationships. Sex now, sex lost, sex reborn. Families, everything in the context of
Moving Time. Paris, some local forest/park, everything talks to you, gets inside you and always keeps whispering "Transience. Grab on to
what you have, the Now, however it is, as it melts around/inside you."


This book is a MUST HAVE For Lifshin Fans!

If you’re a fan of Lyn Lifshin’s tight, engaging poetry, this BIG beautiful book is a must.  It is.  As I read one wonderfully crafted poem after another, I was immediately reminded of the quality of my favorite Lifshin volume, “Before It’s Light.”

It has been many years since John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press was passed to David R. Godine.  I don’t think any of us will ever forget those big, thick Black Sparrow volumes of small press poetry.  Incredible books from an incredible press.

Since then Lifshin’s two Black Sparrow collections, “Before It’s Light” and “Cold Comfort,” have become classics in the realm of small press literary poetry.  Now there is a third.  This book is a sumptuous banquet of delights: 385 pages of poetry from eight of her bestselling and most beloved books.

Does it get any better than that?  I think not.  If you’re a Lifshin fan this one belongs in your collection.  It does.  It’s Lifshin at her best. 

Laura Stamps

The written word has the power to invoke the richest of thoughts and feelings.  With the right stroke of a pen or a computer keyboard, a person can be taken on any number of adventures. I can relive your memories, or you can visit mine.  I can, for a moment, take a look through the eyes of a person I have never met before.  Such is the cause for obsession with literature throughout history.
Few possess the ability to take you completely out of your element, into a dimension altogether gone from yourself, and evoke a sense of belonging in their own.  Lyn Lifshin is one such artist.  Reading her works take you into a world separate from your own, into a life lived by someone else.
In her newest, and largest book of poetry to date, A Girl Goes into the Woods, Lifshin takes us on an adventure through the varying stages of her life.  Starting in her adolescence, and weaving a story of her life through adulthood, she shows realities of war, poverty, and utter despair, countered with love, joy, and hopeful expectation.  A victim of holocaust, a mother’s love for her daughter, a new adventure in a new nation, a new world; all tell pieces of the puzzle that make life the beautiful adventure it is.
A compelling and fascinating contemporary artist, whose early works were praised by Robert Frost, Lyn Lifshin’s work continues to inspire vision and passion, far beyond the scope of the ordinary mind.  Take your emotions on a journey.  Purchase a copy of this memorable collection today.
A Girl Goes into the Woods is available on Amazon. Visit Lyn’s website to learn more about her and her work.


 A poet's poet, February 22, 2014
By Jules Nyquist (Albuquerque, NM United Stat)
This review is from: A Girl Goes into the Woods (Paperback)
Lyn Lifshin is a big girl poet in a little girl's pajamas, tangled wild hair waking up in the woods. She's a poet's poet and I'm pulled into her selected poems "A Girl Goes Into the Woods" as her new best friend to experience her stories. We traipse through exposed branches, bearing a few scratches to follow her path to the buried secrets, anticipated storms, impulsive lovers, uncovered dead cousins, old diaries buried under the dirt, and Mother's lost voice. These are my stories too, and as a poet I write my own poems after reading hers, a high compliment for this wide-ranging collection of Lifshin's work. These are poems about other poets, about Barbie, and about war. She is not just a women's poet, she is a poet for everyone who wants to touch the real. Lifshin is not afraid to touch the dark, "startling (us) as coming upon your reflection in a mirror."

I enjoyed your collection of poems immensely.  Attached is my review.  I will soon post on Amazon and feel free to use anywhere. I will also post on Facebook if that's ok. Your writing inspires me to write which I consider the highest compliment! It's a great collection and love the cover, too.

Jules wrote: "I reviewed Lyn Lifshin's collected poems "A Girl Goes Into the Woods" on Amazon. I recommend reading Lyn's poetry; this is a fine collection and good to have if you get just one book. I was inspired to write after reading her and that's the highest compliment I can give. http://www.amazon.com/review/R2BGFZ7G5V1H1"


The Margaritas were blue with paper roses.
Later I thought how they were the only salt of those nights.
His email letters like skin,
very taut. What he didn’t say drugged me.
Language was wild, intense.
I could feel him, his screen name a tongue.
Verbs taut, what he didn’t say a drug.
It was a dangerous tango.
I wanted his body glued to mine.
Distance kept the electricity vivid.
It was a dangerous tango.
How could I know his mother leaped into Niagara Falls.
I fell for his words, what he left out.
How could I know he was ice.
How could I know his mother leaped into the falls.
Even in the heat, he was icy.
His name was Snow. Our last night
we drove thru fog until 3.
He told me things he said he’d never told anyone.
My thigh burned where it touched him.
On our last night we drove thru Austin
mist talking. I was burning.
He photographed me, exhausted, at 3 AM. Everything he
told me was a scar. My hair curled in a way
I hated. After that night I wasn’t sure
I would be pretty again.
Everything he told me was a
scar. Under the ice the anger in him was lava.
I wanted him, always longing for men
with something missing.
The Margaritas were the only salt I’d taste.
The anger in him was lava under the ice.
I wanted more, my longing a scar.
When he didn’t write, I printed his old e mail.
When I no longer looked for it
his e mail was there, like a mugger.
The Margaritas were strong with black paper roses


the dead bloom, planted so
long ago. You never expected
much from them. It’s as if
with everything exploding, they
want you to marvel at them
too. The beauty of the plum
tree pales “short lived compared
to us.” “Yes, they are lovely,”
another sighs, " but remember how
I brushed your hair, washed it
in lemon juice. Doesn’t that
count?” Sometimes the dead are
 too loud, their fingers clutching,
hissing, “what do you remember
of the way I used to look?”
One newly dead reminds me of
the lilacs he left in a blue
Persian jar. The dead are sure
you would like to see them
and you would but you’re not
sure how much to say, bring
the green emerald sweater you
bought too big for one to wear.
The new blossoms must want
to make the dead tell you what
they hadn’t. They’ve been still
all winter, their season. I want
to just watch new life unfolding,
the mourning dove on her
nest, the wild plum, camellia.
But when I try to sleep with the
window open, the night bird
in blue wind, it’s always my
mother’s voice, “Honey, why
haven’t you called?”



Nothing would be less shall we call it what it is, a cliché
than April in Paris. But this poem got started with some
thing I don’t think I could do but it reminded me of
Aprils and then three magazines came with Paris
on the cover. Sometimes I’m amazed at all the places
I’m not, lets say Paris since actually it’s only March
but in the magazines they are at outdoor cafes which
must be quite chilly now. And I forgot the cigarette
smoke, until I see many in the photographs are holding
what I’m sure isn’t a pen. I wondered how they can
always be eating, biting and licking something sweet
and still have the most gorgeous bodies. I wonder too
how my friend, once an actress, so maybe that’s a
clue, could dress up in scanty, naughty, as she puts it
clothes for her husband while I am sitting here in
baggy jeans and torn sweatshirts. I’m wondering if it’s
because he’s lost his job and she is trying to cheer him up.
I began thinking of Paris when she described the umbrella
she decorated with drops of rain, how she just wore
a garter belt under it. I thought of tear shaped drops of
rain I made for the Junior Prom’s April in Paris,
long before I felt the wind thru my hair on Pont Neuf.
It’s there in the photograph which I hope is more
original than the idea of the photograph because
I plan to use it on my next book. I wish I could feel
what she must, dolled up, trying to soothe this
man and getting off on it. As for me, only
imagining you, the one with fingers on me,
holding me on the page of a book
could make me as excited


suddenly something is very
changed. It’s like that
snow smell in the air.
You’ve noticed it,
haven’t you? And know
the way it sends you
tumbling to decades ago?
Smell is the one sense
that can’t be censored.
But sometimes just
a word in an e mail, the
slightest dry brush
of lips lays the whole
scenario out. One shrug
of the shoulders of the
man my mother loved,
one I may have a Yiddisher
name but that doesn’t
mean I’m not goyim
and my mother knew,
as I do, tho we go on
living quietly



A girl goes into the woods
and for what reason
disappears behind branches
and is never heard from again.
We don’t really know why,
she could have gone shopping
or had lunch with her mother
but instead has gone into
woods, alone, without the lover,
and not for leaves or flowers.
It was a clear bright day
very much like today.
It was today. Now you might
imagine I’m that girl,
it seems there are reasons. But
first consider: I don’t live
very near those trees and my
head is already wild with branches


Swiss summer pajamas,
my face a blotch of
measles in the small
dark room over blue
grapes and rhubarb,
hot stucco cracking.
17 North Seminary.
That July Friday
noon my mother was
rushed in the gray
blimp of a Chevy
north to where my
sister Joy would be
born two months
early. I wasn’t
ready either and
missed my mother’s
cool hands, her
bringing me frosty
glasses of pineapple
juice and cherries
with a glass straw
as Nanny lost her
false teeth, flushed
them down the toilet
then held me so tight
I could smell lavender
and garlic in her
braided her, held
me as so few ever
have since, as if
not to lose more


my mother took out
walnuts and chocolate
chips. My sister and
I plunged our fingers
in flour and butter
smoother than clay.
Pale dough oozing
between our fingers
while the house filled
with blond bars rising.
Mother in her pink dress
with black ballerinas
circling its bottom
turned on the Victrola,
tucked her dress up into
pink nylon bloomer pants,
kicked her legs up in the
air and my sister and I
pranced thru the living
room, a bracelet around
her. She was our Pied
Piper and we were
the children of Hamlin,
circling her as close as the
dancers on her hem


We drove to the lake, then stopped
at my grandmother’s. The grown ups
sat in the screened porch on wicker
or the glider whispering above the
clink of ice in wet glass. Spirea and
yellow roses circled the earth under
stars. A silver apple moon. Bored
and still sweaty, my sister and I
wanted to sleep out on the lawn
and dragged out our uncle’s army
blankets and chairs for a tent. We
wanted the stars on our skin, the
small green apples to hang over
the blanket to protect us from bats.
From the straw mats, peonies glowed
like planets and if there was a breeze,
it was roses and sweat. I wanted
our white cats under the olive green
with us, their tongues snapping up
moths and whatever buzzed thru the
clover. For an hour the porch
seemed  miles away until itchy with
bug bites and feeling our shirts fill
with night air, my hair grow curlier,
our mother came to fold up the blankets
and chairs and I wished I was old
enough to stay alone until dawn or
small enough to be scooped up, asleep
in arms that would carry me up the
still hot apartment stairs and into
sheets I wouldn’t know were still
warm until morning


I don’t think how the
m and m’s that soothe
only made my fat legs
worse. I’m not thinking
how my mother will
die, of fires that could
gulp a mother up, leave
me like Bambi. I’m not
going over the baby sitter’s
stories of what they did to
young girls in tunnels, of
the ovens and gas or have
nightmares I’ll wake up
screaming for one whole
year wanting someone to
lie near me, hold me as if
from then on no one can get
close enough. I don’t hear
my mother and father yelling,
my mother howling that if
he loved us he’d want to buy
a house, not stay in the apart-
ment he doesn’t even pay
her father rent for but get
a place we wouldn’t be
ashamed to bring friends.
What I can drift and dream
in is more real. I don’t want
to leave the world of golden
apples and silver geese. To
make sure, I close my eyes,
make a wish on the first hay
load of summer then wait
until it disappears


someone writes kike on
the blackboard and the
“k’s” pull thru the
chalk, stick in my

plump pale thighs.
Even after the high
school burns down the
word is written in

the ashes. My under
pants’ elastic snaps
on Main St because
I can’t go to

Pilgrim Fellowship.
I’m the one Jewish girl
in town but the 4
Cohen brothers

want blond hair
blowing from their
car. They don’t know
my black braids

smell of almond.
I wear my clothes
loose so no one
dreams who I am,

will never know
Hebrew, keep a
Christmas tree in
my drawer. In

the dark, my fingers
could be the menorah
that pulls you toward
honey in the snow


once a year, bundled in wool
pea coats and snow pants,
mufflers dotted with ice crystals
tightly around our faces so the
incense we were sure would be
too thick to breathe in wouldn’t
make us sneeze. Under our                                  
snow pants, soft corduroy jeans
and our thickest gloves, covered
mittens: we had heard about
rulers smashing bones and skin,
that patent leather shoes were
forbidden. Something about the
stained glass light on the pale
nuns with enormous crosses
and rosaries kept us huddled and
close, walking with only side-
long  glances at the Jesus with
bleeding chest, as scary as The
Thing where Jessica, whose
father was a minister, shrieked
when the blob filled the screen.
We didn’t know why the Catholic
girls couldn’t come to our school
but would come later, in high
school. Or why everything
had a smell we never smelled
anywhere else, wondered how
we’d ever catch up in Latin when
we had to. The dark haired girls
with their dangling faces of
Mary they kissed before a ball
game and tests seemed as exotic
as what was hidden under their
white confirmation dresses,
flesh later we heard would writhe
and twist and do the wild thing
since it would be ok once
they confessed


pinned on stiff tulle,
glowed in the painted
high school moonlight.
Mario’ Lanza’s Oh My
Love. When Doug
dipped I smelled
Clearasil. Hours in
the tub dreaming of
Dick Wood’s fingers
cutting in, sweeping
me close. I wouldn’t
care if the stuck
pin on the roses
went thru me,
the yellow musk
would be a wreathe
on the grave of that
awful dance where
Louise and I sat
pretending we didn’t
care, our socks fat
with bells and fuzzy
ribbons, silly as we
felt. I wanted to be
home, wanted the
locked bathroom to
cry in, knew some
part of me would
never stop waiting
to be asked to dance


my favorite in high school,
a dress I’d wanted to see
marked down and finally wrote
the store, even then, able
to get what I wanted

more easily on paper. I
told them how often I’d come
back, hoping it would be marked
down and dashed up with my
mother when they agreed
to lower the price.

I feel the swirl of those
gowns I ran my hand through,
terrified mine wouldn’t
be there, then carrying it as
carefully as a baby of blown glass.

It was so full my waist
looked tiny inside it
with hoops and an eyelet bustier.
The dress took up half
my mother’s closet,

less space than I did in her,
especially after she had me.
I don’t think I wore it again, too
dressy, too much lace to pack.
But I can see it near the yellow

and the pink and white gauzy gowns,
swirling strapless, a part of 38
Main Street I expected to always
be as it was, like my mother
waiting for me to fill it