Saturday poetry pick: The Eternal City

Where to begin? This week’s poetry pick is The Eternal City, by Kathleen Graber. These poems balance so beautifully sensory perceptions, intellect, and emotional awareness–and the sadness and reflection that come in the sorting and taking stock after the death of her mother.

It’s always a joy to see the way poems move from one subject or image to the next, the way they return intermittently–a weaving–or perhaps circle back at the end. For example, the chair in “Tolle! Lege!” The poem begins

In truth, I have less faith in the gods than I do in the chair
I passed one night set out with the trash on John Street,

which leads us to a plow dug up from a Danish bog, a shattering refrigerator shelf, William James, Augustine–I shouldn’t give this all away, but later we’re brought back to

Someone, somewhere is, even now, delicately turning
the maple spindles of a chair at a lathe…

and that isn’t the end of the poem (I won’t give that away).

The lines are long enough that they could flirt with prose, but no–this is poetry at work, and working hard.

Another of my favorite images comes from “The Eternal City,” which begins:

The attic fan rattles in its hammered tin house–as seemingly ceaseless
as the body’s unquiet engine…

and later:

………………………………………………The trick
must be to love both the blade & the air it shatters.

Honestly, reading these poems, I felt like I was learning so much–about poetry and about life.

Here are four to get you started:

The Drunkenness of Noah

Dead Man

The Synthetic A Priori

Book Nine (from “The Eternal City”)