Hall of Waters

The Operating System, August 2019

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HALL OF WATERS is an attempt to demythologize the rural American Midwest through the specific example of the author’s hometown, Excelsior Springs, MO. Through lyric essay & memoir, the book seeks to examine & undercut the inherent settler white supremacy of the Midwestern small-town, to deromanticize the nostalgia for land & place that is the hallmark of Midwestern art, & to think about what it was like growing up queer & trans in such a toxic environment.

We forget that one product of fire’s burning is water. And Berry Grass’s searing and far-seeing, tetrahedral and tenderhearted micro memoirs set in the osmotic membrane of the Middle Border, Hall of Waters, re-minds us of these fused and confused outcomes at the core of the combustion of cognition. There is nothing I can think of akin to the elemental chemistry of this book. It is sublime, yes, but in its exquisitely rendered prose it rewrites (and rights) the valences that bond us to the place of place and the us of us. This water is “hard” water indeed, but in the dissolved solids one finds a balm, a welling, a source, and a baptism all drenched and drenching in liquid fire.

Michael Martone
Author of The Moon Over Wapakoneta and Brooding
To enter Berry Grass’ Hall of Waters is to agree to a deep-sea excavation through baths that are simultaneously familiar yet foreign. Grass is your guide—pen light in hand, illuminating darknesses that cause the light to refract back upon the reader and author. In Missouri, there are no natural lakes—instead, they are created by dam construction; the water cutting a swath through the trees. The springs, however, are believed to be true blue, as Grass says, ‘And it’s all so healthy, isn’t it? So restorative? To soak in our nature’s superior water and pretend that superiority is therefore our nature. To pretend that the concept of natural is natural.’ Hall of Waters is an examination of how America loves to be undisturbed after claiming what it believes to be theirs, and how Grass finds a way to reclaim identity while still carrying traces of the fountains of the past.

—Brian Oliu, author of ‘So You Know It’s Me