Claudia Putnam's Reviews > Many Parishes

Many Parishes by Adrian Gibbons Koesters
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it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry

This is an outstanding, meaty debut poetry collection. I'm really excited about it. I met Adrian Koesters in a master class with Marvin Bell, oh, I don't know, maybe a decade ago. Then we met again at the Nebraska Summer Writers' Conference. Koesters went on to complete her MFA at the Rainier Writers' Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and then to get a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Nebraska--I much admire both programs and wish I could have afforded either one (or had a husband willing to relocate to Lincoln...). Anyhow, the evolution of her craft is remarkable.

If I have any complaint, it's a very minor one, which is about the exactitude, a near formalism even in the free verse. There is such rage underlying some of the pieces, and I wondered what would happen if Koesters let the lines rip a little. Very occasionally I felt that a poem was a little too obviously the result of a workshop exercise. Masterfully done, but again. I wished for a more ragged edge.

Still, "masterfully" is the key qualifier here.

The material is often dark, but the precision and incisiveness with which it's handled illuminates. (Anyway, I like dark.) These poems interrogate faith, wonder at it, fail at it, cleave to it.


For instance:

A Nun Takes Things Personally

Although that is not the tradition of the cloister:
there are many injunctions bred in a young sister: custody of the eyes,
custody of the hands, custody of the mind. They learn
detachment, which she finds turns out to be a matter of not quite feeling.

Feeling is despite, as if; she lies on a bed
of long yellow needles, high white clouds passing coolly over,
a sky that would reassure her dread of everything. She holds
one palm cupped over her eyes, keeping fast this still reclusion
from the terrible, spinning detachment.

She is divided from the principalities and goes in terror of them,
even here, where breath should be a smooth deep bellows,
held loose, disappearing into the stone,
as when she is late, running toward the next deception, impotent soles
of sandals betraying her down the flagstone.

Under that cupped palm, where she is. Her skin is left
to take on the needles and the sheltering clouds, personally.

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Reading Progress

January 25, 2015 – Started Reading
January 25, 2015 – Shelved
March 8, 2015 – Shelved as: poetry
March 8, 2015 – Finished Reading

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