Stephenson's poems are full of warmth, wit, and so many questions. I really like the way she asks questions in her work. I found myself stopping in my...moreStephenson's poems are full of warmth, wit, and so many questions. I really like the way she asks questions in her work. I found myself stopping in my tracks, sometimes doubling back after a few pages as I realized my thoughts weren’t keeping up with my reading. Go slow, with this book. Too fast and you’ll miss something. I suppose many books are like that, but In the Kettle, the Shriek rewards that doubling back.
Many of the poems seem to throw a bunch of wonderful images and fascinating ideas out there, and I wonder what will stick, where is this going, and then I think, who cares, I’m enjoying the ride. But at the end, the poet often manages to both tie it all together and reveal something new in a single line that is often a question. This is the genius of the work, I think, and what I found so compelling, so interesting.
This is a very positive book. There is darkness, death, panic, extinction, in these pages, but there is light too. A gentle reminder that things will often work out if we are strong, if we are brave. I was especially struck by “Pressing Ghosts,” in which the speaker shares her own fears that her work is unremarkable and dull (it isn’t!) and concludes with:
Even so, I keep creating, I am capable. I will calmly allow its heaviness and stand when it goes. It will.
Strong work here, and I look forward to rereading In the Kettle, the Shriek one day.(less)
Weaving a New Eden is an exploration of place as told by and for the women who built it. Beginning with a meditation on personal loss and carrying thr...moreWeaving a New Eden is an exploration of place as told by and for the women who built it. Beginning with a meditation on personal loss and carrying through a fragmentary poetic history of the settling of Kentucky and circling back again to “The North Yard,” a sonnet crown, in which Chandler writes eloquently of the cycles of life and death in her own settled yard, often with a scientific understanding of the world that would have been alien to the frontierswomen we met earlier in the book.
This is a wonderful, beautiful, book, worth taking your time with. It took me two weeks to read because I kept going back, rereading, and then letting the poems rest in my mind for awhile before moving on. I look forward to her next book.
Baobab Girl takes the reader all over the world through experience, myth and legend. The language is pure delight: fresh and often startling. Lines li...moreBaobab Girl takes the reader all over the world through experience, myth and legend. The language is pure delight: fresh and often startling. Lines like “Ivar’s silver eyes / are moon-lure, his voice / honey of ash sap” have played in my head for days as has the imagery and story told in “Under the Yew.” These 12 poems are to be savored and at some point reread. Great poetry transports us and this collection certainly did that.(less)
After reading Where the Butterflies Go, I was interested to read more of Heather Grace Stewart’s poetry and so next up was Leap, a shorter collection...moreAfter reading Where the Butterflies Go, I was interested to read more of Heather Grace Stewart’s poetry and so next up was Leap, a shorter collection than Butterflies and interesting for the way it moves between the real and online worlds. There are a number of poems in which the author seems to be wrestling with what it means to live in such a socially interconnected time, but as with her other collection my favorites are the poems inspired by parenting since that’s the focus of my life right now. It’s good to read poems that capture parenting and the way it changes marriage with such insight, wisdom, humor and well, yes, grace. A good read all around especially “Autumn Will,” “Beautiful Chaos,” and “Valley.” I look forward to reading her third collection Carry On Dancing, which is coming up soon in my reading pile.(less)
I’ve been carrying mark Stratton’s Tender Mercies (The Pancake Truck Press, 2011) around in my bag for a few months. Mainly it...morefrom my blog (11.8.11):
I’ve been carrying mark Stratton’s Tender Mercies (The Pancake Truck Press, 2011) around in my bag for a few months. Mainly it was so I wouldn’t forget to write something about it, but it’s taken me this long. The old blog has fallen down the priority list somewhat these days, but periodically I get the book out, read a few random poems and then stick it back in my bag. Now it’s started to feel like a friend tagging along from place to place offering snapshots and images from dreams and nightmares. It’s a friend who doesn’t explain himself but the conversation is good and usually interesting.
"The Cowboy rides through lead guitar dynamics a single stream of time signature changes"
–from “Tender Mercy #28D”
That’s the sense I get from Tender Mercies, a collection that began as a series mark posted to his blog about a year ago or so. Sense is a funny thing too, because it doesn’t always make sense to me. I don’t always get what mark’s getting at, but the ride, the language, is a pleasure, and sometimes a line or two finds a place in my mind, takes root and won’t leave me alone. So the book goes back in the bag and I carry it around some more, sometimes forgetting it’s there only to be happily surprised again.
"I misplaced my words
I kept them in the lee Of a tow sail
They went well with Collard greens Or a glass of milk."
–from “Tender Mercy #17b”
Earlier this year, mark asked me for feedback on the manuscript and a blurb. I offered those, but I kind of wish I’d had the year to do it. Maybe the blurb would have been better, at any rate. I say that simply because after nearly a year of hanging out with these poems at hospitals, the dentist’s offices, school, who knows where else one finds a few moments to read, I just like them more and more the better I get to know them. I still see a lot of poems about connection and disconnection, love and loss, though, but they get funnier or sharper or wiser with time and rereading. Sometimes more mysterious too. I think good poetry should be like that.
"Toxic rains fall not from only the heavens. Domestic gods and Dusting share the blame."
The book is divided into three sections: Pain, Growth and Family and it was the last that resonated most with me. Equal parts meditation, celebration...moreThe book is divided into three sections: Pain, Growth and Family and it was the last that resonated most with me. Equal parts meditation, celebration and reflection on family life, marriage and parenting, the poems here are full of keen observation of relationships and the small details that make each family unique and special to its members. My world now is so full of learning this whole parenting business, I found myself frequently smiling and nodding along as I read. I especially enjoyed the way Stewart’s book moves between poems that recollect the transition from childhood to adulthood and others that celebrate childhood innocence through the eyes of a wise mother who knows that innocence is fleeting. Beautiful work.(less)
Dark and Like a Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine (Broiled Fish & Honeycomb Nanopress, 2011) by Nic Sebastian and edited by Beth Adams has bee...moreDark and Like a Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine (Broiled Fish & Honeycomb Nanopress, 2011) by Nic Sebastian and edited by Beth Adams has been following me around in my bag and on my phone for several months now. There is a lot of weight in this short collection of 15 poems, and it may not be too much to say I love this book.
Sebastian traces a spiritual path that resonates with me for its recognition of the longing for what is often right in front of us, though unnoticed and forgotten in the action and busyness of life. We wind up seeking something that’s really never very far at all. Sebastian doesn’t attempt to directly define the divine and I like that too. There are more questions than answers here creating an openness and space for the reader to enter and follow along on a shared journey.
In her introduction, Sebastian writes of being sick for silence and stillness which is where I was when I picked the book up last year.
"my days are flocks of starlings wheeling dark waves of loud chatter"
—”my days are flocks of starlings”
A year ago, I found myself “sick for silence” and set out to get back into my habit of walking and writing small stones, a kind of active meditation or prayer, if you will. Those starlings (well, they’d be grackles down here) can get out of hand… loud and noisy nuisance birds, flying in all directions, crapping on everything. With all that going on, it’s easy to forget to be awed by nature, the trees dropping leaves, the birds on their great journeys, even those starlings. To lose this is to close off an important path toward the divine, to stick with the poet’s usage, which I rather like.
"home because my breath ends in silver plainchant and woven silence in you"
—”the names of my breath”
There are other journeys too of course, those not marked by miles. The one called parenthood that we’re on now spirals, at this point anyway, deeper into home. My son who has the past week discovered consonants and repeats them endlessly, delightedly, as if singing the most wonderful song seems to me a gift… something so undeserved and precious as to make us wonder how we didn’t know he was missing during the years before he came. He sings his babbling song, we sing back, he responds with laughter and raspberries.
"your step is like a small flame and a song unfurling"
—”antiphony in the hills”
Sebastian’s language and imagery—landscapes that evoke the widest vistas and the narrowest paths—are vibrant. This is a book that takes the reader on 15 journeys, each longer and deeper than the relatively brief poems that contain them. The journeys, of course, are one journey leading back to wholeness.
"when I have readied myself
I rise whole from the pool at sunrise and step into you as onto a straight road"
—”when you come to me in the dark of night”
Oddly, or maybe not, this book speaks to me most of the end of journeys in which we may have experienced something of what exists behind nature, community, communion, and silence that can’t really be described or explained. It’s not nothing. It’s not imaginary. And in opening ourselves to it, we can find the recognition, warmth, healing and mystery that fill us up with an awe and wonder the way a woodpecker’s rhythm in the trees, a scorpion’s path along the road, the touch of a loved one or a baby’s laughter do.
In this book I’m reminded of the importance of finally coming home. Whatever that might mean to any given reader.(less)
Decent intro to Collins. Some of the poems were a bit too clever by half, but I still enjoyed the collection, particularly Collins' sense of humor and...moreDecent intro to Collins. Some of the poems were a bit too clever by half, but I still enjoyed the collection, particularly Collins' sense of humor and wonder.(less)