Blue Dusk: New & Selected Poems, 1951-2001

Blue Dusk: New & Selected Poems, 1951-2001

by Madeline DeFrees

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Contradiction and ambiguity are essential to the poetry of Madeline DeFrees. Her work is concentrated, multi-layered, spliced with humor and characterized by a passionate interest in every aspect of words: their literal and figurative meanings and associations; their histories, usage, disappearances, and resurrections. In her recent poems she approaches complex subjects with a new clarity, the dividend of a long investment in the art of writing.

Just as her poetry demands distance from personal biography and revelation, it is also deeply affected by her own life story, most profoundly her 38-year tenure as a nun. Throughout her writing career—from her early poems written under the name Sister Mary Gilbert, to her newest ones in which she casts a lifelong glance back through history and lineage—the need to reclaim individual identity is balanced against the relinquishment of the self.

From Going Back to the Convent

What was I running from
or into? The uneasy light of the senior
prom? Mother's dream of a a child bride, supported by
pennies from heaven? Or was it the writing
life laid as a sacrifice to a jealous god
on the tomb of the woman
I'd hoped to become?
Whatever it was, it will soon
Be over. I write this now to reclaim it.

A student of John Berryman, Karl Shapiro, and Robert Fitzgerald, Madeline DeFrees has taught generations of poets and poetry students, and earned widespread acclaim for her own work. Madeline DeFrees has taught throughout the US, including at the University of Montana and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she directed its Creative Writing program. She presently lives in Seattle, WA.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619321090
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 06/07/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Madeline DeFrees was born in Oregon in 1919. At age 17 she entered a convent and was a Catholic nun for 38 years. DeFrees is author of ten books of poetry and memoir, and received the Lenore Marshall/The Nation Prize for her selected poems, Blue Dusk.

Read an Excerpt

Scarecrow Gardens

Late-summer squash put out to sea
in coastal storms. All day, wet
leaves let go. I cut down three
sunflowers, a foot through the heart.
Their dried crowns counsel me to turn
my head and pierce the cloud.
As van Gogh understood, gold comes
in many forms: the best is art.

Galileo's Case Reopened (1564-1642)

Lie still, son Galileo, while we crack
the seal, undo the nails and let the bronze
repeal of history correct your bones.
And what's three hundred years, the long trajec- ories of moons, their lines crisscrossing like
a pinball game? Believe me, no one wins
without a slight distortion of the lens
changing the curve of inference and luck.

Timely as rockets bursting on the mind's
black earth, I plant the fleurs-de-lis of kings
over your grave to mark the faithful skull.
Inside the socket where the globe unwinds,
the shaken bell of every iris rings,
your brain flowers like a solar model.

Table of Contents

New Poems 2001
Going Back to the Convent5
On Western Avenue behind a Horse-and-Buggy8
Through a Silver Screen9
Clematis montana11
Visiting Sunday: Convent Novitiate12
Elegy for Arnold15
The Paradise Tree17
Surgery Waiting18
Still Life19
Balancing Acts21
Memory Tract23
Woman Locked in a Memorial Museum27
To Marilyn Monroe Whose Favorite Color Was White28
Scarecrow Gardens30
Peregrine Falcons in the Bank Tower31
Widows Riding Amtrak33
Sapphires in the Mud35
Hanging the Blue Nuns37
Double Dutch38
Vermeer's A Woman Holding a Balance40
from From the Darkroom 1964
Requiem Mass: Convent Cemetery45
A Kind of Resurrection47
Nuns in the Quarterlies48
The Outsider49
Antique Convent Parlor50
Skid Row51
Long Day's Journey into Bloomington52
Whitsunday Office55
From the Darkroom56
from When Sky Lets Go 1978
Baroque Lament59
The Shell60
In the Hellgate Wind61
The Family Group62
The Odd Woman63
Letter to an Absent Son65
A Woman Possessed66
Psalm for a New Nun68
Existing Light69
Driving Home71
Nights of flint and snow73
With a Bottle of Blue Nun to All My Friends74
Hope Diamonds76
from Magpie on the Gallows 1982
Slow-Motion Elegy for Kathy King81
Extended Outlook84
Hanging the Pictures85
The day you were leaving86
The Register87
Phobias Incorporated89
Aladdin Lamp91
Sanding the Chairs92
Beetle Light93
Picking Youngberries on Mr. Harvey's Land95
Keeping Up with the Signs96
Gold Ring Triad97
from The Light Station on Tillamook Rock 1990
I.The Geologist's Map101
II.Power Failure103
IV.Sounding the Ocean105
V.The Return from New England107
VI.Breaching the Rock109
IX.The Columbarium: Everlasting Consideration111
XII.Geography as Warning113
XVI.Counting the Winter Dead116
XVII.The Book of Sediments118
from Imaginary Ancestors 1991
Stages of Family Life125
Grandmother Grant128
On My Father's Side130
Clare of Assisi131
Gilbert of Sempringham133
The Woman with Fabled Hair135
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)137
Galileo's Case Reopened (1564-1642)139
Sister Maria Celeste, Galileo's Daughter, Writes to a Friend140
Modern Primitives141
The Giraffe Women of Burma143
Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins145
Greta Garbo and the Star Messenger148
Maria Callas, the Woman Behind the Legend149
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans Cross)151
from Possible Sibyls 1991
The Stirrups155
In the middle of Priest Lake159
Living by the Water161
Beside Mill River163
Dialogue Partly Platonic164
In the locker room165
Spiritual Exercises167
What I mistook for heather169
Shadegrown Tobacco170
In the Whirlpool172
The Widows of Mykonos174
Hagios Panaghiotes: The Church in Tolon175
The Garden of Botanical Delights177
About the Author185

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