GOOD NEWS! Two new Seattle-based poetry presses have published first books. These welcome additions to the local publishing scene are Entre Rios Books, publisher of Twelve Saints: Art & Poems ($18), with poetry by Knox Gardner and art by Nia Michaels, and Hummingbird Press, publisher of Her Animals ($18) by Emily Johnston. Seattle’s vibrant poetry scene, so rich in writing, reading, and magazine publishing, has plenty of room for book publishers dedicated to poetry. Cheers to these two for setting out! May they profit in a delicious variety of ways! Now, about the books…
Entre Rios intends to be a press for artist and poet collaborations, and their first book, Twelve Saints, certainly is a beautiful representation of the collaborative arts. Sharp, dense poems drawing on the saints’ lives are juxtaposed with their inventively imagined portraits made from collaged anonymous tintypes conveying an iconic solidity. In his very intelligent introduction to Michaels’s art Gardner writes that her saints “make a direct appeal to our shared condition of limited time and comprehension against a great uncertainty.” The book ends with brief, charming biographies of the represented saints.
Patron Saint of Pastures
Right there, you oaf, are the sheep! Devotional
crevice of mind pasture rolling on pasture,
small daggers are this life for wolves and doubting.
A hook bends toward escape as seclusion
stacks the fence. Wendelin, son, there’s little point
daydreaming as there’s work to be done… But look!
Miracle indeed the flock traveling home
clouds against the blue hem of God shuddering
the eye that sees possible in quietude.
Emily Johnston’s Her Animals is a powerful piece of witness, commitment, and soul. Ms. Johnston, a long-time activist deeply involved in environmental issues, has written a book that reads like a thoroughly compelling diary. Sections are hand-numbered in Roman numerals, with short lyric poems offering touching counterpoint to the prose. It’s all as if left behind by a person unsure of the results of the actions she’s taken but certain of the future if no action succeeds. The writing is direct, dryly witty, and quite poignant. Hummingbird’s presentation echoes the elegant flatness of her voice in a plainly lovely way.
Engaged in this struggle, I met many wonderful people.
(Also many others.)
It gave me strength and a kind of restfulness to be among
them though all of us were haunted by what we were
failing to do.
In sweet moments, here and there, we had beautiful, surprising
victories, and we celebrated, though we did not rest.
And then the scope of the problem came back into view.
When I open the door
you lean forward
smelling of coffee
and leaves and sun.
Your hands gather me.
In the middle of the field, you
in every room a vase.