The Marie Alexander Series is dedicated to promoting the appreciation and enjoyment of prose poetry.

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The Rusted City

The Rusted City


The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems

by Rochelle Hurt

The Rusted City: a Novel in Poems is a hybrid collection of linked prose poems and lineated series depicting the disintegration of a family in a surreal wasteland. Told through the experiences of the smallest sister, it is a coming-of-age fable set in the haunting dreamscape of the rust belt, where industrial corrosion becomes a funhouse mirror of personal loss and degradation. In images of urban ruin both dark and whimsical, the communal loss of a destroyed city parallels the loss of innocence and trust within a household. At once speculative and documentary, it is a story about the nature of decay in the aftermath of abuse and betrayal.

About the Author

Rochelle Hurt is the author of two collections of poetry: In Which I Play the Runaway  (2016), which won the Barrow Street Book Prize, and The Rusted City (2014), which was selected for the Marie Alexander Series in prose poetry from White Pine Press. Her work has been included in the Best New Poets anthology series and she's been awarded prizes and fellowships from Crab Orchard Review, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, Phoebe, Poetry International, Vermont Studio Center, Jentel, and Yaddo. She is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Slippery Rock University. Visit the author's website.

Interview with Midwestern Gothic

Interview with Belt Magazine



The Rust Belt Gothic is a new political-aesthetic category, wherein the ignored or statistical pain of the nation’s abandoned industrial heart is made to glow with a Poe-like anti-vigor, an undead (but unnatural) force. Rochelle Hurt’s Youngstown is rife with fairy-tale inmates—a smallest sister, a favorite father, a quiet mother—yet the ruling spirits of the place are not humans but the corpsey avatars of place itself—the shuttered factory, the ruined ballroom, the big hungry plural baby of ‘the century’ with its singular familiar, Rust. Rust paints its red sigil everywhere, blurring the inside and outside of bodies, homes, the city itself, which eventually, like a body, must split open to expose its red and rusty heart. This is a gory, half-delirious business, wonder- and grief-stricken, urgent and exacting, tender and hot, like an iron filing shifting in the palm.
— Joyelle McSweeney
In Rochelle Hurt’s breathtaking mixed work of prose poetry and verse, a history of place is caked in a ‘deep layer of red dust.’ The Rust Belt’s rattling structures and sutured-up asphalt roads are palpable here in every syncopated line and every musical sentence—in the flash of a worker’s lunch pail and in each drink stirred by a rusty nail that leaves ‘iron orange streaks’ on readers’ tongues. And we know that this too is the taste of our blood. We know that in the broken heart of a country, what beats is the familiar pulse of a mother, a father, and siblings, slowly hammering scraps to hold family together. We know, from this new century, that it is art like this that endures.
— Oliver de la Paz
As moving as it is formally innovative, Rochelle Hurt’s The Rusted City is an elegy for the Midwest rust belt, and for a history that is not yet even past—and also the gorgeous tale of a family told through the eyes of its smallest daughter, who greets her rusted world with every magic word of childhood, all the serious play and terrifying loves of her youth.
— Matt Bell
Scrap gardens, metal shards, blankets of rust. A city collapsing, a house shut against itself, everywhere fragile bodies. A chronic cough, corrosion, exhaustion haunting the landscape. In a story too painful to tell, in a flood of stories so small yet so heavy that only archetypes can carry their weight (The Oldest Sister, The Quiet Mother), in increments of time so grand, so trivial (The Century of Silences, Spring Cleaning), Rochelle Hurt manifests shifts of perspective that are at once tectonic and barely perceptible. Her portrait of the hapless Rusted City and its inhabitants is unsettling, provocative, visionary, its magic hard won—a phoenix rising out of ash.
— Holly Iglesias
In Hurt’s sparkling debut, the tinny, melancholic, gorgeous stir of Baudelaire’s heartbroken metropolis is heard again, but this time its flesh and spirit are rusted. Its lung is rusted, its heart and belly are rusted. Its mother, father, and sister are all rusted. In this city, though, rust is no death rattle but the life rustle. In this city, the prose poem scrapes the sky until rusted clouds burst, sending rusted beauty clattering down. Hurt brings the prose poem back to life.
— Sabrina Orah Mark
Through the tiny window of the prose poem, The Rusted City paints a surreal landscape of an alternate Midwestern Rust Belt. Small domestic events resonate with the description of centuries (eons even) of the city’s history, causing macro and micro levels of sense-making in this strange, beautiful, and heart-breaking world. Through surprising image and impeccable timing, Rochelle Hurt has somehow managed to make a single family into an apt metaphor for American life. The Rusted City is outstanding, unique, and new—one of the best books I’ve read this year.
— Sarah Messer


Hurt’s poetry pierces the reader’s skin just as the arrow of a gesture, a phrase, a natural disaster, pierces a character’s skin, a city’s soft shell. The set is mirrored, the effect prismatic. The choreography is flawless right up to the moment where subject and witness merge.
The Rumpus
Sense of place, relentless imagery, hypnotic sounds, and a childlike sense of wonder make The Rusted City a worthwhile read.
The Adroit Journal
While this book is concerned with place, it is also concerned with rusted linguistics. Words, in this magical world, are made concrete.
— Mid-American Review
Hurt’s impressive debut is a full-length collection of prose poems mixed with free verse (the eighteenth volume in the Marie Alexander Poetry Series). It reads like an extended fairy tale, a modern version of an old-fashioned story in which rust/blood, fear, and pain leave trails on the road to rebirth.
Weave Magazine
The Rusted City adds a female perspective to a conversation that includes writers such as Detroit’s Jamaal May and Philip Levine, Pittsburgh’s Jack Gilbert, Youngstown’s Kenneth Patchen, and other historic and contemporary poets working to reflect America’s complex industrial and post-industrial experience.
New Orleans Review
Hurt is a young writer to watch. This debut sets her voice among the new generation of writers from the Rust Belt, a region often misunderstood or ignored, and therefore ripe for new definitions.
— Middle West Review
The Rusted City is a look beyond the bleak exterior of these places and into the heart of them, the people that make them tick.
Heavy Feather Review

Release DateFebruary 2014




Dimensions6.2 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches

To Some Women I Have Known

To Some Women I Have Known

Postage Due

Postage Due