Friday, June 26, 2009

What I'm Reading: Cloisters

Winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award and published in 2008, Kristin Bock's Cloisters is a new favorite. I have written lately of being a bit lost and unsure in both my writing and my reading. I've gone through several other books on my "to read" shelf this week and haven't been drawn to any of them...until Bock's book found its way to the top of the stack. I've just finished my second reading of it today.

It's another small book, in the sense that it measures 5 1/2" x 6". I don't know why I'm fascinated by these outside the norm productions, but I am. In this case, the size of the pages reflects Bock's tendency to write short lyrics, as I do, which perhaps explains my affinity. Of the book's 38 poems, only 7 run on multiple pages. I like that the short poems don't get swallowed up in the white spaces. This is a well-balanced book in every sense.

Bock's writing is focused, tight, laser-like. Her images serve the larger purpose of their poems and yet each one begs to be held for a moment on its own. She writes of love and loss and simply being human in a world of nature and emotion. The book is divided into five sections, named for five months: October, December, February, April, and August.

The first poem of the book, "On Reflection," begins:
"Far from the din of the articulated world,
I wanted to be content in an empty room--
a barn on the hillside like a bone..."

A line from "Phrenology" that sticks:
"I lay my head like a hive in your hands."

From "Return"
"Reverse the plough! Pluck me from this orchard of
bones--from the hummingbird flying backwards

to kiss an orchid. ..."

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