The Night Marsh
WordTech Editions, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2008.
6 x 9 ", 102 pages, perfect bound, $17.
ISBN 9781933456973 <— Click the ISBN for ordering information and more sample poems on the publisher's web site.
Special thanks to nature photographer Michael Lustbader for the cover image!
Click Here for Phillis Gershator's review in Home Planet News.
"The Night Marsh is a beautiful collection, rich and deep, by a poet able to communicate truths that almost go beyond words. Several of the poems convey astonishing spiritual experiences (see 'Voices,' 'Diffusion,' 'Translating the sky on the Morning of My Birthday,' 'One Moonless Night,' and more). In other poems, Penny Harter intimately confronts the natural world; and often, high moments of her life, and our lives, between death and childhood, are memorably held fast." — X. J. Kennedy
Note: The sample pages above do not accurately reflect the typography or page design of the book, but have been constructed for Web display.
Three additional poems from The Night Marsh and ordering information may be found on the publisher's web site—which offers a choice of popular online vendors.
Another page promoting The Night Marsh is on the First Annual Festival of Women's Poetry Online, sponsored by Wompo. This includes another sample poem, plus links to major booksellers carrying the title.
More poems from The Night Marsh may be found on other sites: three in the Fall 2007 issue of Umbrella, two in the June 2008 issue of Contemporary American Voices, one in the Fall/Winter 2007–2008 issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review. (Each of the links immediately above opens in new window or tab. Links to more of my poems are on my Publications page and Read My Work Online, which should open in this window.)
from issue 60 (Vol. 16, No. 1) Summer 2008, reviewed by Phillis Gershator:
THE NIGHT MARSH is an extraordinarily impressive collection of poems, most triggered by photographs, memories, news items, nature—poems that attach themselves solidly to reality(a bone, a bird, a crown of red hair...) and then leap into another realm. I’d call it realistic magic. One example: in a poem about the death of a cat, or simply death, “Below the Trees,” we read these lines about loss: “Talk to me of dust returned to dust, / of flesh to dirt. Talk to me about / the way the sun sets early and the dark / holds on.” Words about reality work their magic; we need them, and acceptance and comfort will follow. The language is straightforward, but it shimmers.
Harter’s poems are grounded, thoughtful. Every word counts (the poet is a master of the haiku as well, where every word has to count). No shallow, long winded, self indulgent riffs here, and no arbitrary definitions of truth or wisdom, yet the poems are true and wise. The poet is drawn to speculation; she expresses feelings of wonder, anticipation, joy. She’s also drawn to the dark side, the need to meditate on mystery, pain, death. The balance she achieves is exhilarating, all the more because we know that she is a trustworthy and honest guide. We know because we’ve often been to the same places. And when she takes us there again, by way of rich and unforgettable metaphor, she reaches deeper than we’ve gone before. A poem about her mother, “She Would Not Eat,” ends:
And we did not understand
that she was emptying herself—
was foam spilling through
a pair of old shoes abandoned
at the tide-line, or water returning
from a child’s lost pail.
Yet when we asked her
if she wanted to die, she cried
God, no, and hid more food
beneath her pillow, as if
she were covering it with sand.
The poet has the ability to introduce us to the unknown and, at the same time, to the commonplace, uncommon when seen with a fresh eye. Take the backlit face in a train window, for example, in “Passing Train at Night.” Reflecting on the real or imagined trips we take via airplane, car, bus, boat, isn’t a train the most evocative? The very sound of a night train’s whistle evokes history, adventure, nostalgia, longing—endless reverberations!
The face in the train window
gazes up at buildings that flicker
and go out in the wake of its passing,
and you remember riding through the night,
your forehead pressed against the glass
as the long whistle echoes from your skull
like a comet’s tail.
Penny Harter’s poems shine (to lift a line from her poem, “Within the Dark”) with “a radiance that’s only seen / by looking slant within the seeded dark.”
Review copyright © 2008 Home Planet News, edited by Donald Lev. All rights reserved.