Columbarium by Susan Stewart

By Susan Stewart

Winner of the 2003 nationwide booklet Critics Circle Award within the classification of poetry.

In her long-awaited fourth publication of poetry, Susan Stewart supplies us a sequence of just right, numinous poems approximately truths realized with the brain yet let loose during the senses. Modeled at the seventeenth-century perform of century types, or books of 1 hundred pages, Columbarium expresses the bond among the dwelling and the lifeless in voices of mum or dad to baby, lover to liked, and mortal to the gods. The booklet arrives as a meditative present from one among our most useful poet-critics.

Stewart frames her Columbarium with 4 poems harking back to the elements-to their harmful and artistic facets and to their roles within the human and greater than human worlds. either nest and crypt, the book's middle holds an alphabet of "shadow georgics," poems of guide and doubt that hyperlink wisdom and the subconscious. Questions of mortality, of goodness and pain, and of the fragility and tool of reminiscence animate those poems. in a single poem an apple calls the narrator again from the lifeless to savour the echoes of its types in delusion and literature. In one other, the seeds of a pear tree display the basic team spirit that makes the variety of lifestyles possible.

Stewart's Columbarium is either a memorial to the lifeless and a testomony to life.

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Tougher, coarser, split weave in the years. Shorter, longer, shorter, the brain bound to its anchor. The brushed-out waves • 32 • with their rick-rack shadows, a thread inside the case, the case inside the locket, the locket beneath the yoke. All the effort to save in itself a form of loss. You can tell a story many ways. You can leave something out or put something in; you can fool yourself and hide. You can shake out the form or try to manage every wisp, but the latter will only bring you pain.

35 • Dark the star Dark the star deep in the well, bright in the still and moving water, still as the night circling above the circle of stones the darkness surrounds. Dark the wish made on the star, a true wish made on the water’s image. There’s no technique in the grass. There’s no technique in the rose. • 36 • Ellipse Night after night the astronomer imagined the stars in their orbits, building his orrery of glass and string; he was making a kind of singing that came from far beyond himself, beyond the sounds that human mouths will bring into a form of being.

Things in their order seem to be at rest, but are moving toward their places with an inner fire and weight. You thought you were singing the song of the orrery, where all things follow the motion of light. But the stars are perfect; we do not live among them. We do not know them and cannot know them; their music steals the senses and slows us into sleep. You were moving with a purpose, though you did not know it yet. You were moving like a sleeper through the shoals of night. And that is how you found this place; you cradled one ear against the sky and put the other against the ground.

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