Heaven-and-Earth House: Poems

Heaven-and-Earth House: Poems

by Mary Swander
     
 

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Heaven-and-Earth House is a book of lyrical poems and dramatic monologues that attempts to explore the balance between the physical and the spiritual, the mind and the body. The book is set and grounded in Mary Swander's own Midwestern landscape. It follows her quest to find her sense of place within the surrounding Amish countryside of her native Iowa, and to find

Overview

Heaven-and-Earth House is a book of lyrical poems and dramatic monologues that attempts to explore the balance between the physical and the spiritual, the mind and the body. The book is set and grounded in Mary Swander's own Midwestern landscape. It follows her quest to find her sense of place within the surrounding Amish countryside of her native Iowa, and to find her sense of self within and without her physical body. Through gardening, tending goats and sheep, through her work with massage, over and over again she is put in touch with the five basic elements. Earth, water, fire, metal and air come to encompass not only a schema of medicine but a life process that seeks finally to find the hope of "worldly" transcendence.

Always close to the earth and its animals, always beautifully constructed, always masterly in the ways of storytelling, Mary Swander's poems are experiences both moving and profoundly delightful.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Swander ( Driving the Body Back ) writes with zealous music of Midwestern rural encounters--of keeping company with a goat ``satyrette'' who is due to give birth; of waiting in the cellar for an expected tornado; or simply of noting the endurance of okra (``teach me the secret / of your stalks''). Her vigor as a writer seems very like nature's: ``I risk and run the mutt down, dodging horse plops /and buggy ruts.'' But Swander rarely excludes the human from the natural. Her most telling poetry is firmly peopled, whether by a narrator or by others observed in the midst of a place. Part of her work's pleasure is the tones of voice she evokes in it--``Praise the Lord and pass the setting gel. / Honey, I thought I knew what hell was until I entered / this hospital''--and the turns of thought that voice can lead to. Swander's writing is more accessible than poetry is sometimes believed to be, yet sacrifices nothing by opening a pathway with ``common'' language; the rhythms of weather, humor and talk body forth with an engaging confidence and candor. (May)
Library Journal
In his third collection, Swander (Driving the Body Back, LJ 4/15/86) conveys an overall theme of illness and suffering, the testimony given by patients and their caregivers. At least half the poems deal with medical matters, while the rest focus on nature, the Amish life, and sense of place. This uneasy division in subject matter makes the book a tough read, mainly because the harrowing nature of the medical poems quite overshadows the gentle, ruminative tone of the more pastoral works. At first, the reader sympathizes with what appears to be the poet's plight, but the bald realism of her treatment of ward life and illness finally becomes transparent. Moreover, her poetry lacks the element of formal rigor, an ingredient that made, for example, L.E. Sissman's poetry of disease and mortality so memorable beyond the grim facts. Not recommended.-Frank J. Lepskowski, Oakland Univ., Rochester, Mich.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679765684
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/27/1996
Edition description:
REISSUE
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.97(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.34(d)

Meet the Author

Mary Swander is the author of two earlier books of poems, Succession (1979) and Driving the Body Back (1986). She has published a variety of writing widely, in such magazines as The Nation, The New Yorker and Poetry. Her dramatic adaptation of Driving the Body Back and her coauthored musical Dear Iowa have been produced throughout the Midwest and on Iowa Public Television. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she has been the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Literary Arts Award from the Chicago Public Library and the Nation-Discovery Award. She is a native Iowan and an associate professor at Iowa State University. As an avid gardener, she has written for National Gardening Magazine, and is the coauthor (with Jane Staw) of a book of interviews with Midwestern gardeners, Parsnips in the Snow (1990).

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Ames, Iowa
Date of Birth:
November 5, 1950
Place of Birth:
Carroll, Iowa
Education:
B.A., Iowa State University, 1973; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1976
Website:
http://www.maryswander.com

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