The Salt Before It Shakes


In her bold debut collection of poems, Yvonne Stephens writes about nature, loss, change, hope, motherhood, and family with honesty, courage, sensitivity, and moments of keen existential humor. Stephens’ poetry offers a welcome respite from and insight into what it means to live well and with authenticity in the 21st century.

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Praise for The Salt Before It Shakes


How often do you encounter a mind that’s not trying to be normal or usual, and instead is learning to be more itself—and free?  You will find this rare occurrence in The Salt Before it Shakes. Whether writing about mental illness, fertility treatments, miscarriage, pregnancy, mass violence, family love, building a sauna, or canning apricots in light syrup, Stephens approaches her subjects with attention and candor, humor and craft. I admire the quiet fearlessness in these poems; their guileless observations; their quirkiness and curiosity, even in bleak situations. Perhaps most of all, I admire the dignity that refreshes in these well-wrought poems of real life. Read them, you’ll see.”

Holly Wren Spaulding, author of If August

Yvonne Stephens grounds her poems in the Midwest: there are canoes, wood stoves, and even a porcupine. At the same time, she meditates on the wider natural cycles of death, birth and renewal. In one poem Stephens writes, ‘Took my chunk of sun home/put it in a jar with some yeast.’ This image captures the earthy alchemy of her attentive and deeply nourishing work.”

~ Angela Sorby, author of Distance Learning, Bird Skin Coat, &
The Sleeve Waves; winner of Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry

The Salt Before it Shakes is a marvelous collection that carefully and lovingly examines the minute details of our everyday lives. There is longing in these pages — for a child, for family, for comfort, for contentment and understanding, and for a winter’s worth of canned goods and the perfect tomato. Stephens’ take on the world through her poetry is deliciously seasoned with desire and despair, with loss and with gain. Each moment captured in the pages of The Salt Before it Shakes is like the title moment, one filled with anticipation and promise.”

~ Patricia Ann McNair, author of
And These Are the Good Times & The Temple of Air

An astonishing, brilliant debut, radiating with compassion, understanding and sharply infused insights.”

~ Robert Vaughan author of FUNHOUSE

About Yvonne Stephens


 Yvonne Stephens lives with her husband and two children in Northwest Lower Michigan. She has worked as an assistant in the fields of mycology, forestry, and neurology research, volunteered for two years in the AmeriCorps, and most recently was an Artist Residency Coordinator for the Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology. An award-winning poet, Yvonne was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2015, and her poems have appeared in the Dunes Review, the LAND Creative Writing Journal, and Family Stories from the Attic. Visit her blog at