Synopses & Reviews
The family response to the sudden deaths of the speaker's two young nieces is at the center of Catherine Barnett's award-winning first collection. This series of elegies records the transit of grief, observing with an unflinching eye how a singular traumatic event can permanently alter our understanding of time, danger, the material world and family. Marked by clarity and restraint, these lyric poems narrate a suspenseful, wrenching story that explores the depths and limits of empathy.
“Living Room Altar”
Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean,
except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt,
except for her body, which once held their bodies,
my sister wants everything back now—
If there were a god who could out of empty shells
carried by waves to shore
If the ocean saved in a jar
could keep from turning to salt—
She’s hearing things:
bird calling to bird,
cat outside the door,
thorn of the blackberry against the trellis.
"These heart-breaking poems of an all-too-human life stay as absolute as the determined craft which made them. There is finally neither irony nor simple despair in what they record. Rather, it is the far deeper response of witness, of recognizing what must be acknowledged and of having the courage and the care to say so." —Robert Creeley
A powerful and suspenseful elegiac sequence, winner of the 2003 Beatrice Hawley Award.
Poetry. The familial response to the sudden deaths of the speaker's two young nieces is at the center of this award-winning first collection. Narrating a suspensful, wrenching story that explores the depths and limits of empathy, these lyric poems are marked by clarity and restraint. The poems accelerate and recede, recording a transit of grief that reveals the deep "response of witness, of recognizing what must be acknowledged and of having the courage and the care to say so"--Robert Creely.
About the Author
Catherine Barnett won the 2003 Beatrice Hawley Award for her first collection of poems, Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced, which was published by Alice James Books in 2004. Her honors include a 2004 Whiting Writers Award, the 2004 Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, a 2005 Pushcart Prize, and a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Barrow Street, Shenandoah, Interim, The Hat, and The Washington Post. She teaches creative writing at NYU and lives in New York City.