Whether tapping into the secret language of dogs or
mockingbirds or light, whether tuning the mind's radar in order to detect
and understand the loneliness of a mouse or the hopes of bees, whether
opening up her own heart to explore the nuances of love for a son and even
nameless hippies--Cathryn Essinger reminds us of the magic that exists
everywhere if we just pay attention.
In wise and elegant, expertly crafted poems that we
have come to expect from this masterful poet, we are given the chance to
rethink what it means to live in a world that both gives and withholds
meaning. As I read, I felt myself opening more fully to the planet's mysteries,
regaining a sense of innocence, and learning how the world/is colored again
by wonder/and mute admiration of the unknown.
Author of Playground of the Flesh,
and The Axis of the Imponderables
In Cathryn Essinger's new book of poems What I Know About Innocence, her trademark, wit, grace and
dash are put to brilliant use to explore the realities and mysteries of
the world. Stories and relationships are made magical. Dogs and cats, birds,
mice and bees more than hold their own with people. Babies levitate and
a eulogy for a Big Blue Ball will break your heart. The last quarter of
the book deals with the impact of a murder on a farming community, proving
once again that a good poet backs off from nothing. And Cathryn Essinger
is one of our best poets.
Author of Trying to Help the Elephant Man Dance
Cathy Essinger is a master of noticing and naming.
Both the power and the humor in her rewarding poems come from the pointed
connections she makes, as in a poem about four monks "preparing to
picnic beside / the road," where their chanting is imitated by a mockingbird.
She catches moments of wonder in poems about an "office mouse,"
about Cinderella's coach "moldering / among the windfalls," about
a squirrel asleep on a maple branch, about moonlight reflecting through
a windshield, about a sparrow's egg that reminds the poet of "The
catbird your parents raised instead of you." A broken glass and a
cut hand provide the occasion not for an exclamation of pain but for "Catching
the Light." She's intent on the "story
/ inside the story,"
nowhere more than in "Dark Flower," a sequence of vivid, gripping,
yet strikingly lyrical monologues about a murder. What
I Know About Innocence concerns itself primarily with benediction, not
just directed at what's easy to praise but what's hard to accept:
I want a blessing for unholy things-
for the catbird that empties
the sparrow's nest,
for the mice, moles and grubs that eat
at the roots of the apple tree,
that bites and stings and spoils, a blessing
in which the faithless can, nevertheless,
put their faith.
The whole book abounds in verbal and visual delights,
told in an unaffected but highly affecting voice that sounds both neighborly
and newsworthy. It's a pleasure to be caught up in these catchy poems.
Author of The Poetry Dictionary and Creating Poetry