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The Place of Our Meeting
by Donna Emerson
$19.99, Full-length, paper
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In a heart-stopping poem in Donna L. Emerson’s richly varied debut volume The Place of Our Meeting, a woman and her daughter find a fawn whose leg is caught in a fence. Will the poet be able to lift the barbed wire without cutting and killing the young animal that struggles against it—and assuage the terrified child? Read the tensely significant “For No Reason” to find out, then read on to discover a panoply of places where human beings meet nature, where generations (especially mothers and daughters) meet one another, where frenzy meets solitude, health meets illness, the rural life of the past meets the California of the present, and where modern love meets modern death. A new American pastoralist, Donna L. Emerson uses poetry’s own set of special lyric keys—observation and metaphor—to bring a vivid specificity and profound importance to all the startling meetings and transitions of our lives.
–Molly Peacock, Author of The Analyst, poems
Donna Emerson‘s The Place of Our Meeting is full of meticulous observation of the natural world and of its connection to people and to art. While there is grief and loss in these poems, more importantly there is peace and gentleness, serenity and celebration. These poems are rooted in a rural California landscape and the poet leads us almost by the hand to bathe in the still beauty that she describes. This a book you will return to again and again for the comfort and beauty it offers.
–Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Author of All That Lies Between Us, winner of the American Book Award
What does a poet see, when she goes away from the city of our moment in time?
Donna Emerson sees trees stand like pews and cornfields’ spirited congregation.
In this book, Emerson brings together different tonalities, writing both from the landscape of memory and the natural world of her beloved California, often bringing the two into the same poem, even the same stanza: “Remember when we listened / to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? / Only one season here: / red summer hum.”
This is a poet of many tonalities, yes. On one page you will find an elegy or an image of a memorial for her father, and right next to it will be the world of hollyhocks, stalks growing “beside her house, / up the windows, toward the roof. The abundance here feels natural: one is grateful for the wild abandon of riding horses in shorts “so I’d feel her girth” or by flying with “cousin Shelly…a full gallop.” And, one is also heart-broken by the moving scene of verbal assault in a poem such as “Standing on the Desk” where the young girl is placed on the table, in front of the whole room, and told to stand there, quiet.
In the center of the many portraits and eulogies, pastorals and rhapsodies of this book, stands the poet herself “buoyant, a trumpet in a brass choir.”
There is much to choose from in this book, this journey of days. But always the poet is open to the sensual: open these pages and you will find “every shape greets us—new, soft, still.”
–Ilya Kaminsky, Author of Dancing in Odessa
I spent a tender afternoon with these poems. Donna’s ability to focus on and carefully describe a bed of hollyhocks, a snowfall, a cow on a hill, gives them almost mythical properties.
She starts and ends with the family farm. These poems seem to spring from the soil of the farm where the poet spent her childhood, ground so deeply known we can almost feel the sun, wind, and rain that shaped her sensibilities. Here, in The Place of our Meeting, the beauty Emerson finds is solace for the lessons in heartache and cruelty human relationships can offer. It has given her a place to stand and meet whatever comes. She tells hard truths without bitterness. I am deeply impressed about the way the land itself comes alive in these poems. Always in her poetry. No matter how intellectual and wise she can be, she is so of this earth. I mean this as a compliment, the biggest compliment I know.
–Susan Bono, author of What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home