Penny Harter's The Night Marsh, Sample Pages.

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The Night Marsh, Sample Pages and Review

The Night Marsh front cover

Penny Harter
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


Within the Dark

Like those faint stars we cannot see
except that we look straight ahead
and find them flickering at our vision’s edge,

our sleeping faces glimmer with each breath,
cast signatures of light above the bed
where every night we give ourselves away.

Some snails leave phosphorescent slime
behind them as they drag across black sand,
or crawl along the garden’s muddy path.

Our transient skin, our fragile skulls within,
cast off a radiance that’s only seen
by looking slant within the seeded dark.





"The Night Marsh is Penny Harter's journey into knowledge, digging into the earth, into the past, seeking and turning up connections and wisdom . . . . A great new collection by one of my Jersey favorites and a deserving Dodge Poet, teacher and Poet OutLoud! Thanks for these beautiful and dense images." — Maureen Berzok
"In The Night Marsh, Penny Harter very effectively dissolves the illusory walls we humans have constructed between ourselves and the rest of nature. That is the sort of healing people need. May her audience be huge." — Christopher Herold


Seasons of Our Wounds

What seasons
haunt the wounds of the flesh,
the spasms of the heart?

Scars heal too slowly, years
crawling toward the time
when pain sleeps in our cells
and we forget the original betrayals.

Inflammation lingers, red
around the edges of our wounds,
while cold in the mouth
of the sky breathes us blue.

Internal stitches dissolve,
and nesting birds gather hair
we’ve dropped along the way.

Perhaps it’s all spring in the end,
what we think lost sprouting
again and again out of the dirt
to startle us.



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.)

Home Planet News logofrom 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.

This page first posted 15 July 2006 and last updated 19 July 2008. Copyright © 2008 Penny Harter. All rights reserved. No material from this web site may be copied on other web sites, produced in printed copies, or otherwise reproduced except as explicitly stated on a particular page, or by permission of the authors in writing. Please do not e-mail copies of this web page; rather, send the URL:
Penny Harter's Main Menu
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From Here Press
Clicking on one of the links above takes you to the relevant page. Or go to PenHart Home.
Contact Penny Harter at penhart-AT-2hweb-DOT-net.

   Penny Harter's The Night Marsh, Sample Pages.