Tag Archives: Stephanie Glazier

Fire & Flower

book by Laura Kasischke, Laura

annotation by Stephanie Glazier


Kasischke’s principal trick is sound. She leans heavy into slant rhyme and, at first ( through the first third or so of the book), I delighted in it. And then…I began to feel almost talked down to after so much sneaky rhyme.


“Gotcha again,” is the experience I began to have.

I think this is a danger with using so much of the same sound mechanism in one book. It’s one problem with form, I suppose.  

Yet, there’s something else happening with this slant rhyme. It’s at once greatly associative and dissociative. In one of her excellent element poems “Dear Air,” she writes “…white grapes spun themselves from sun/ and water on their vines—in-/ candescent thumbs, clear-/ blooded and alive” (26).  Here she is likening the human form, to the grapes by anthropomorphizing their bodies. She’s also using metonymy here, part for the whole, and not just any part but the thumb, one bit that separates us from other animals close in the progression. She is associating herself to the grapes. She is associating the words “vine” and “alive.” But the strangeness of that pairing, the newness of it, is dissociative. The idea of blood being clear and in fruit is dissociative. It puts me in another realm.

It makes my jawbones hum.

When I go into a nature poem, I expect some romanticism—and I’m lead into Kasischke’s poems this way. I’m made to believe (“Dear Air” not “To the Air”) that there’s some sweetness to be had here. And there is, but it comes at the cost of not knowing what she’s going to do next. She almost mocks romanticism with her rhyme: it’s flip and new and female and dare I say, hip.

I don’t feel completely safe as her reader – which kept me reading, now that I’m thinking of it.

Another reason I’m not totally comfortable is her use of image. First of all it’s brilliant and strange and deeply unfamiliar.

And also, she doesn’t always come back for me. That is, she doesn’t loop back around in the poems to make meaning of an image as I think she will (should). “The Baby Learns to Say Baby,” opens “Flowering bulbs just under the snow…” (47).  In this four page poem, there is nary a mention of flowers or bulbs or snow again. (Unless the bulb is simply a stand in for the baby.) Her images are somewhat difficult to map, if they are meant to be mapped. Though I do have this feeling –how credible—that she just means me to experience them for the sake of themselves, for the sake of the moments they serve. I think I like this…and I have this feeling while reading (as I do when I’m discovering something new) of looking around silently saying, “is she allowed to do this??!??”

The Dance Most of All

book by Jack Gilbert

annotation by Stephanie Glazier

I’ve always been slightly vexed, particularly so coming out of the Translation Seminar, by non-English speaking (writing) poets’ vagueness. Latin American writers especially can speak of “the grief of lovers,” as Gilbert does in his poem, “Infectious,” and I’m affected by that. It’s charm works on me. (Gilbert is writing about an experience he had in Italy. I understand that he’s spend the last few decades in Greece.) This has bewildered me so because it’s precisely the opposite advice one receives in a writing workshop—specificity, concrete, clear images, the young poet is told. Today, it seems to me that one reason that foreign poets ‘get away’ with speaking generally, especially about emotion, is that other cultures are more concerned (and this is evident in the semantics of other languages) with the collective identity and experience. American poetry is much more interested in the particularity of identity and experience—individualism. It’s a matter of readership. Reading work in translation, I’m convinced by such generalities because they’re voracious to the experience of that poet’s cultural context and to her ideal reader.

The last poem in the collection, titled “We are the Junction,” employs one of Gilbert’s principal tricks—really weird syntax. Jenny Factor recently submitted to me the fact that each time I read a new arrangement of words, each time I’m surprised by syntax, a new synapse forms in my brain. When I read Gilbert and Matthea Harvey’s work—I have this feeling of being washed over. “When body touches heart/ they together are the moon/ in the silently falling snow/ over there” (56).  So much so that when I read this, when he tells me that our whole beings are the only vehicles we have to understanding, I believe him because he’s telling me in a way I’ve not heard it before: “Which is truth/ exceeding, is the residence,/ the sanctified, is the secret/ closet and passes into glory.”