Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees takes up the tradition of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, but on poetry's own terms. At first glance, Baggott's candid counsel can be seen as a manual on writing poetry, written in poems. As the book unfolds, however, these poems take on the larger landscape of love and loss, the rigors of living fully, and the intricate, mysterious territory of our fragile, hardworking souls.
She's not an easy lover who simply tilts her head
when you appear on the front stoop.
Will she allow the porch light to cast heavenly redemption
like a bare bulb in a church-basement Christmas pageant?
No, there's scowling, silence. And when finally
she takes you to the tub to wash away the world's filth,
you're always shocked, no matter how many times
you've strayed, that she doesn't gently cup your head,
but dunks it, again and again,
a baptism that just won't take.
Julianna Baggott is the author of two previous poetry collections, This Country of Mothers and Lizzie Borden in Love. Her debut novel, Girl Talk, was a national bestseller, and was followed by The Miss America Family and The Madam. She also writes books for young adults under the pseudonym N. E. Bode. She recently coauthored the upcoming Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions with Steve Almond.