Book Review: Two new books of poetry by Katherine Soniat


Katherine Soniat will present two sessions at The Carolina Mountain Literary Festival in Burnsville on Sept. 13-14. For more information on this 8th annual Carolina Mountains Literary Festival event, go to the website. The Swing Girl was selected as Best Collection of 2011 by the Poetry Commission of North Carolina. Soniat is an instructor in the Great Smokies Writers Program at UNC-Asheville.


Praise for The Swing Girl (2011 from Louisiana State Univ. Press)


“The poems in Katherine Soniat’s new collection eddy and pool in unpredictable and often surprising ways, much as the mind moves in its twilight state between waking and sleep. The fluidity of their cadence and the luminosity of their imagery carry the reader to the wellspring of poetry itself, that deep delight of which Robert Penn Warren spoke, whose source is, in Soniat’s words, ‘beauty on its way to being mystery.’” Kathryn Stripling Byer, former North Carolina Poet Laureate


Praise for A Raft A Boat A Bridge (2012 from Dream Horse Press)


“How might one move quietly and slowly enough—crossing water to land or to ether, to high altitudes or low, the strange or the everyday—to give us time to dream what happened on both banks? In A Raft A Boat A Bridge, Katherine Soniat’s beautifully understated poems sometimes pass through places of great pain, but ultimately beyond them as well. Myth and history, mountains and deserts, grief and intimacy are all transformed in this collection into a poetry of depth, dignity, and richness of language.” Lisa Lewis





arrives with ashes to corner the past.


By the hearth, a family waits—
each attendant breath, the rising
falling mystery.


There, the ancients dwelt on firelight,
their eyes lacquered with ease.


In dreams such repose wants to count
when the stars are out and the covers up.
We feel at home like birds in a ruined cathedral.


then we wake, pace, grow tired
of waiting, and as always want to head
for the next best-imagined place.


It’s in our blood. It’s pointed to as across the sea,
beyond the sky. The way out. Each threshold
dark enough to make the eyes grow large.


from A Raft A Boat A Bridge



Ghost Laundry


By fall they brush up against us, almost flapping
with scent, these absences that are constant and faithless
in the same breath.


Like heathens, we can’t believe our abandoners
and want more than the solar drag of wind on the clothesline


After a heavy rain, apples wash by in the ditch, turtles
head for the road, a meeting place for the high
and low.


I watch clouds shadow fields of sunflowers,
that golden crop that follows beginning
to it’s end.


Why our need to stop things
in mid-air, as if the waterfall could refuse more?


One night you said you could see her smile again.
The smile she wore, a worn smile
like the beaten path that stays well after the garden.


from The Swing Girl



September Sentence


Uncut corn in the field,
Raucous vultures tossed on the sky,


Human caravans fleeing.


Every day is as relentless as a plow pushing
Them to the edge of the mountain,


To the brink of this processed, cleansed,


Mop-the-blood-off-the-deck world


Where one summer men arrived
With mouths full of nails,


And shovels to dig a hole for part of the race
To rot in. Then they pound the ground shut.


from The Swing Girl


Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker