In and out of the lives of others these poems go carefully observing the hardships of blue collar Americans, all the while vigilantly preserving the integrity of the individuals who fall under their scrutiny. Imo-Stike is especially attuned to the lives of her maternal forebears for whom she displays deep affections as in these lovely lines. “I breathed deep, and / feel her presence in the legion / of mothers we all carry.”
The collection is a wide ranging one accurately describing the poignancy of adolescent sex in one poem and in another paying as fine a tribute to Woodstock as any I’ve ever read and without one word about the rocknroll! In a poem where she carefully recalls her work among plumbers and pipe fitters. I was instantly reminded of Philip Levine’s exemplary work, as fine a compliment as the many I am happy to pay to this terrific first collection by West Virginia poet, Mary Imo-Stike.
–Marc Harshman, Poet Laureate of West Virginia and author of Believe What You Can and Green-Silver and Silent.
From the coming of age in Rochester to the history muscled deep into the soil of the Tonawanda Reservation, from the innocence and idealism of Yasgur’s Farm to the courage and stubborn persistence of a relentless solo woman-warrior turning wrenches and working factories in a field of men, and finally to the ancient knowing mother of the West Virginia mountains, Mary Imo Stike‘s poetry stares without flinching into questions of class, tradition, gender, generation, and most importantly: home. For Imo Stike, home is both the search and the landing. Home is that which we fashion ourselves, foundations we create by honoring the bones of our ancestors, even as we carve our own trails away from them, lit with the shining fragments, nuts, washers, wire, that we gather from even our lives’ darkest moments. Imo Stike writes: “There are words that have magic sown into their fibers/that when uttered into sound,/spoken, set free to travel in the sea of air,/release the enchantment.” This debut chapbook, Mary Imo Stike‘s words, has that magic; these poems release that enchantment. There is so much wisdom here, and more. These are extraordinary poems from an extraordinary, and loving, life.
–Mary Carroll-Hackett, author of The Night I Heard Everything, and A Little Blood, A Little Rain
In and Out of the Horse Latitudes is a work of generational witness, a testimony to both the light and dark sides of a life of work. These poems move from “the beautiful plane geometry of clean / new lines, perfectly hung, coaxed / aside if needed and aligned plumb,” to the deep loneliness of “jobs that take all of me / out of me” and work which, skillfully done, “renders me invisible.” But Mary Imo-Stike brings forward those whose lives are spent lives grounding our world, and honors their ache and endurance in both body and soul.
–Diane Gilliam, author of Kettle Bottom and Dreadful Wind and Rain