(from poems on the Appalachian Trail)
Even while the spruce grows held upright between gravity and heaven it twirls upon its axis, a core that changes year by year, though not in accordance with the world’s revolutions. Righteous and right-handed, Earth rotates eastward against space and time and all the living molecules upon it. So when the tree— blown by westerly gusts and lured to southern light—turns against all reason clockwise there are at work so many conflicting forces—Coriolis Effect, the leftward- leaning bias of being, the sun’s seeming circle across the forest—that even the tree must exert its own orbit. How then could I keep anything straight? This one, fallen, stripped of bark, cracks apart, split across concentric rings into spokes like wheels or webs that spiraled upward through the rooted trunk. Deflection seems a crucial labor, the kind that conspires to belie the calm I feel in these ancient woods. Once upon a time, when this universe burst forth from some elemental cloud whose collapse turned everything to spinning, we in return became the wound unwinding, and we are still twisting in the winds of its momentum.
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.