(from poems on the Appalachian Trail)
If there is some divine shadow flung over every worldly thing, that could be a reason for rhyming cirrus with feathers, wind with wings, this mountain with the last and the next whose shadow shortens now, cast west in a morning sun shaded twofold by that raven calling in answer to other uncertainties. No matter what they say, the ravings of a beleaguered mind sweep and scold, weakening my resolve to climb, then darkening without relief or thanks to cloud. So much deeper, and deepening, these slower bass winds of wings: an eagle in the opening, hawks over rock slopes below the relentless bluster and gust of a shallow shrill echo. See: the bird to the wind is ballast, a revenant without mission save to shadow its own appetite, ravenous as mine still winging like this torn map I keep holding up in my hand freely flapping in the wind. Poem by Alice B Fogel
Alice B Fogel served as the New Hampshire poet laureate from 2104 through 2019. Her latest book is Nothing But: a series of indirect considerations on art & consciousness. A Doubtful House is her previous collection, preceded by Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” which won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature & the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry. An earlier book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it—which offers inroads to poetry useful for readers, reading groups, teachers, & writers. Nominated for Best of the Web & a dozen times for the Pushcart, she has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, & her poems have appeared in many journals & anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, The Inflectionist, & The Southern Review. She works one-on-one with students with learning differences at Landmark College, & hikes mountains whenever possible.
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Nothing But reveals the disruptions—welcome or unsettling—to our stream of consciousness that occur when we encounter the unexplainable. In these poems, such suspensions of linear thought become a beckoning toward transcendence, an opening both deeper into, and out beyond, our perceptions in an otherwise prescribed world.
A marriage houses two wildly distinct entities, each one in turn a form containing its own unruly spirit. Addressing its inhabitants with humor, love, sorrow, anger, confusion, and hope, A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.
This series of poems responding to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” pays homage to a 274-year-old masterpiece and, with the theme of spirit and embodiment that music—and life itself—evoke, renders from it a luminous new interpretation. Bach created the Goldbergs’ 32 sections using nearly all the styles of western European music at the time; Fogel responds in kind with a range of contemporary poetic styles, including narrative, lyric, and experimental, all confined within the 32-line structure she has borrowed from the composer’s 32-bar format. Interval mimics the “baroque” effects of overlapping melodies and harmonies by layering sound, syntax, and sense in multiple voices exploring self, identity, and being.