Overview

A meticulously crafted new volume from the acclaimed American poet whom the Washington Post Book World called a “genius.”


Rash yet tender, chastened yet lush, Headwaters is a book of opposites, a book of wild abandon by one of the most formally exacting poets of our time. Animals populate its pages—owl, groundhog, fox, each with its own inimitable survival skills—and the poet who so meticulously observes their behaviors has accumulated a lifetime’s worth of skills herself: she ...

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Headwaters: Poems

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Overview

A meticulously crafted new volume from the acclaimed American poet whom the Washington Post Book World called a “genius.”


Rash yet tender, chastened yet lush, Headwaters is a book of opposites, a book of wild abandon by one of the most formally exacting poets of our time. Animals populate its pages—owl, groundhog, fox, each with its own inimitable survival skills—and the poet who so meticulously observes their behaviors has accumulated a lifetime’s worth of skills herself: she too has survived. The power of these extraordinary poems lies in their recognition that all our experience is ultimately useless—that human beings are at every moment beginners, facing the earth as if for the first time. "Don’t you think I’m doing better," asks the first poem. "You got sick you got well you got sick," says the last.

Eschewing punctuation, forgoing every symmetry, the poems hurl themselves forward, driven by an urgent need to speak. Headwaters is a book of wisdom that refuses to be wise, a book of fresh beginnings by an American poet writing at the height of her powers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/26/2013
Voigt’s slim eighth collection of poetry is defined by a liquid precision. The poems, constructed of long lines and spontaneous rhymes, put Voigt’s technical mastery of verse with no punctuation on full display. Her pieces open without capitalization as though she has burst in on each poem mid-thought: “end of the day daylight subsiding into the trees lights coming on/ in the milking barns.” The simplicity of her titles is deceptive: poems called “Cow,” “Mole,” “Geese,” “Privet Hedge,” and “Bear” begin with these common animals and objects but glide into intimate and fearsome spaces. Voigt regards a chameleon, stating, “I see you do not move unless you need to eat you almost fool/ the mockingbird nearby in a live oak tree flinging out another’s song/ which is me which which is me.” In another poem titled “Noble Dog” she recalls the haunting experience of someone watching her daughter in the bathroom: “we thought when we bathed in the claw-footed tub we could pretend/ we stayed inside the natural world no shutters no shades at night” but after calling the police and tracking the stranger with a dog, “we knew this was a moment of consequence but we couldn’t tell/ whether the world had grown larger or smaller” (Oct.)
Maria Hummel - Rumpus
“Extraordinary. . . . A monument to the conscious mind’s compulsion to order and interpret a chaotic world.”
Booklist
“These tough, wryly funny, wise, and poignant lyrics erode sorrow and embrace adaptation . . . without denying beauty or love.”
Library Journal
Celebrated poet and teacher Voigt (creative writing, Warren Wilson Coll.), a finalist for both the National Book Award (Shadow of Heaven; Messenger) and the Pulitzer Prize (Messenger), continues to use the natural world as thematic grounding in this long-awaited volume. In the title poem, the poet has "clung// to my own life raft I had room on it for only me…," but she includes multitudes—animals, entities, gathered and examined, sheltered and carried. This slim collection of 28 poems delivers what readers have come to expect from Voigt: luminous pieces meticulously shaped by provocative lines and careful syntax. Voigt chooses deceptively simple subjects—noble dogs and moles, larch and lament, the roof she finds praiseworthy, the owl, the cow, and stones a friend saved and of which she is now the owner. But her poems are far from simple. Each reading reveals the tug of opposites, and in this tension the poet shows her brilliance: "the emblem for wisdom is the same for gratitude at dusk at dark/ the farsighted owl strikes in utter silence when we hear it/ from the tree or the barn what it announces/ is already finished." VERDICT A highly recommended book by an important poet.—Karla Huston, Appleton, WI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393241419
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/14/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 910,744
  • File size: 530 KB

Meet the Author

Ellen Bryant Voigt is the author of volumes of poetry, including Shadow of Heaven, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Messenger, a finalist for the National Book Award and for the Pulitzer Prize. Voigt was awarded the O. B. Hardison, Jr. Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Merrill Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, where she was subsequently elected a chancellor. Her poems have appeared in an array of national journals and anthologies, including The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry. She lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
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