Oh, the water; or, on Kathleen Graber’s Capacious The River Twice

I was thrilled to see a new book by one of my poet gods, Kathleen Graber. The poems unfold, or unscroll, down the page, sometimes multiple pages, and are polymathic in their contents. One moves from an eipgraph on the recalculation of the age of the universe to a comet no one will ever see again, as its orbit is longer than any one human life, to her brother who died before ever seeing a cellphone to vultures to two photos taken of that comet and finally to how long grief lasts.

If that sounds like too much for one poem to hold, I did not find that to be so. It seems like in these poems Graber is pushing the outermost walls of the poem’s container and it holds and holds.

Last year I spent several months on a project on this very thing — pursuing where the unfolding threads of a thought took me and how much digression a poem could stand. I found I thought it could stand more than some editors and trusted advisors could, so I pulled in the ropes of thought. But reading these poems I’m not sure now. I have the urge to go back to that poem and unleash it again.

As I read and reread the book, called The River Twice, knowing I wanted to write a blog post about it so I could encourage you all to read this brilliant poet, I searched for excerpts I could include. But the poems are so braided that I couldn’t pare off a piece of a poem without losing the power of the whole. So here are a couple of links to poems in their entirety. Throughout the volume are these “Dear America” poems, which, although at first made me think of Stephen Colbert in character in his old show (“America,” he’d begin, pompously…), I found to be among the most poignant in the book.

Here is one from the American Poetry Review: https://aprweb.org/poems/america-peaches.

And here is one that was published in Plume: https://plumepoetry.com/america/.

I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do.

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