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Green is the Orator

Green is the Orator

by Sarah Gridley

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Green is the Orator follows on Sarah Gridley’s brilliant first collection, Weather Eye Open, in addressing the challenge of representing nature through language. Gridley’s deftly original syntax arises from direct experience of the natural world and from encounters with other texts, including the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” and the writings of Charles Darwin, Peter Mark Roget, William Morris, William James, and Henri Bergson. Gridley’s own idiom is compressed, original, and full of unexpected pleasures. This unusual book, at once austere and full of life, reflects a penetrating mind at work—one that is thinking through and re-presenting romantic and modernist traditions of nature.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520262423
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/02/2010
Series: New California Poetry , #29
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 104
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Sarah Gridley is Assistant Professor and Poet in Residence at Case Western Reserve University and is the author of Weather Eye Open (UC Press).

Read an Excerpt

Green is the Orator

By Sarah Gridley


Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94614-9


He is hell become heaven, becoming hell; he is evolution, a matter of energy, a star in the dark tomb, a shadow cast by sunlight. He is life that cannot be contained, a holy insurrection, blessed negativity.


    About the star-cold abundance of August sand—

    this spell of my two hands working in the dark
    I liken to the feeling of your two hands working
    behind me, or your two hands coming before me
    in the white mirth of bright drapes, white lengths
    the wind sends in salt-light through the feeling
    your two hands have in coming to find me.

    There are things I liken to crossbeams

    inside of things I call politeness, things I liken to superintendence,
    seashells, pale hosts of erosions, fadings
    I liken to insight. There in the window
    of your soloist house, I think that nothing
    is holding up

    this thought that is feeling you moving.

    Salt Marsh, Thick with Behaviors

    In seasoned assertion, the red-winged calling of the grass.
    From spaces outside the territory, the stone summons,

    the stone sum. Weight is a quality known to boundary's
    swerve. The sum of which is fragile: waves leave mica

    stuck to skin. Some I know of inherence. Some
    I have not remembered. Among the lightest of insects,

    a Comma has a cryptic edge. A woman should behave herself,
In mica, the glamorous stammer of mirror—

    A woman should behave herself naturally. Bill-tilt,
    check-call, songspread—a bone flute snapped

    from passage of bird—the unearthed
    played unearthly.

    Table of Consanguinity (The Cousin Chart)

    Once they are there,
    the bearings are theirs, the sickness peculiar to motion
    removed by horizon's evident flatness.

    What they bear is the date, and whatever will follow.
    Bay of gray margins, mobile as curfew. Rollick of tides
    and empty casements. Stone-deaf stones marking thoughts

    out loud. Schist like a book of tempers.
    Stars in dogged pantomime.
    Exactly what

    the waves were for lengthening.
    Slow, elemental line. Gray like the saint of a put-out fire.
    Sea of gray margins, solemn as seals. On it a flash

    like something wrong. On it the falling quiet.
    What they touch is the moss
    like an earthly expense.

    Green in a poise
    almost vernacular, almost the sensible
    guide to North.

    Diminution of the Clear Thing

    My somnolence is
    the rest of trees (sessile touch around dry leaf
    to know my weirdest passiveness). To go the irises
    the pebbled drive the luminous

    claps into valley.
    When you have posted a letter in the open air,
    an artist will know your feeling,
    will ground the clouds in canines of noon,

    gold leaf pressured over graphite sun.
    To feel outside an envelope—
    unchangeable corner mailbox blue—
    there are words in the morning against

    the mind, containing sleep
    in the shape of walking. A nomenclature castle opens to sky:
    grassy crenellations
    I may not taste

    or touch.
    Chagrin the name between the banks,
    so many doors down and winded from counting,
    pronouns in acts of substitution,

    weirdness in the middle of making promises,
    where I am in mind for nothing else
    than to call out,
    to wander ahead with names—

    to emerge as the last of the woodwind
    To call out,
    to utter in

    an undertone—
    the continents
    in nameable forms, the squid
    that tastes where it touches.

    Half Seas Over

    Or simply, drunk— Dutch courage in the face of milk and flummery—

    our passive margin, our transitional crust, our rift obtusely

    known as creation.

    As it lost its concentration, gold was a million things
    that wouldn't be dragged from ocean:

    crass undertaking

    a reason to form— the sun profounding surface—

    the come-loose asterisks

    of starfish bones.

    Jardins sous la pluie

    You paint precipitation
    following thunder: wands of soaked fire, arcs of searevising
    sun, salt come up to seed in clouds, downfallen cool
    and diagonal water.

    You paint the garden the garden is: a border blued in
    in heavy heads, hydrangeas fed aluminum sulfate,
    a border blued up in amended beds, in old
    pear peelings and grass.

    Moon is to the blueness of panicles as seawater is
    to the whiteness of rain. Hours in this feeling
    of yours and mine.

    Born in the woulds of the given body, waking up
    this often there.

    Sweet Habit of the Blood

    Viburnum's winter fairy globe: in outer robing
    it is vivid: a cardinal meal in the drifting bright.

    As inner movement understood, radiant caverns
    in the out of sight. Up for the habit

    of the robust world, the wood boat floating
    of a starred green loom.

* * *

    Wherever unsteady

    meets with unsteady, there is the lot of physical forms. And guest

    and guessed are one to me: whether the sky or whether the lake.

    I feel before I want to know: water stays fluid below the frost,

    and silver quiets the jargoned heart.

* * *

    Long in the wild of new-ending winter, the exhumed fletcher

    could step out
    showing his armful of arrows

    Is He Decently Put Back Together?

    If there is nothing half-assed about the redbud tree, she can be beside it
    compositionally, in the form of a spring tableau. See her female

    receding to a slight power. Coefficient before a vivid variable,
    amplifying, as will the May wind, a purple of the bark-

    bearing flowers.
    Was it happening to be there, or coming to act

    in keeping with one's nature? Who has thought that a soul
    is a list of things to be done? Far into the color

    of a scene's exaggeration, the lagoon is reading
    dreadful words to itself. Looking glass

    for the apple in flower,
    for that cost of the sky on its surface.

    Under the Veil of Wildness

    Draw the curtains for candescence.
    The antlers were forged by the silversmith.

    The sun slips off
    auroras, illumines branches of extinction.

    Do you call the main body marker: a standing
    as if instead of? Or else a thing stooped

    down upon, and loved? Beneath the tree
    a childhood coffer, a penny

    and an acorn smell. I call the main body
    bramble: verging glow of a crusted switchbox,

    on and off until a kind of ending comes.
    Looking quietly at a trumpet, a flared bell,

    a blackness encompassed by brass, you say Wait.
    Looking backto the prickers, to the fruit-

    picking hand, can you say
    Enough? I call the main body

    espoused: line of symmetry inside, trench
    between two lungs, for the twoness of, the two-

    timedness of breathing.
    Under the tree, a childhood coffer,

    a stashing anda rooting spell.
    By oxygen-drawn sheerness into red,

    I call the branches to describe themselves.
    A body is mainly its branches—

    branca claw paw hand—
    its tender

    and untender branches.

    Coming to the Festival of the God of Boundaries

    Helios the mute, the keen in Pan's knife.

    Some time critical at the bending stream, where he cuts the reeds
    at staggered lengths and with the beeswax
    begins to bind them.

    Beneath the humanly shaped air is an animal's
    report of feeling.

    Then for the first time saying or.

    Turning your instrument toward the tree, all the training comes up
    as something just below your skin, yet within the business
    of the sun. You could be readily alone,
    you could be difficult to reach or speak to,

    at present included in the subsoil production, where Mercury
    scythes the head off Io's warden, Argus, whose every hundred eyes
    under the messenger's messenger voice
    caves to a slumberous feeling.

    In such a beautiful piece
    for reeds, it is all ears under the architected
    bridal veil, our trinkets working to the surface of earth.

    The earth, too,
    and moreso tidal, tidal in the congregate
    shifts of grazing, tidal in the turn of plow, itself a substance
    for the moon's compactments.

    Her own voice frightens her. In lowing hearing herself low.
    Her father feeds her grass, swats a fly
    from her eyelash.

    The border completely herbaceous. Quantities of sun
    later to be crushed from borage.

    To wedge a story inside a story. To cut the trunk radially.
    Argus, whose every hundred eyes heard Syrinx running
    into sound, Syrinx being chased by everywhere.
    Staggered lengths of story.

    And does the god have a mind of his own,
    Pan in the needles, the unthinkable pine wreath,
    a ubiquity darkly seductive of breeze?

    Along her various edges, between obvious and audible and covetous,
    the rarely dissected textures, fog is condensing into water
    on the hardened forewings (shards)
    of darkling beetles.

    For the reinstatement of a hundred eyes, the covert feathers
    snapping into courtship.
    Now you: you now.

    If affluence
    speaks into the mouth, if the very long dead exceed our energy?

    In the room adjoining the living room, the offer to play
    the nocturne over.

    You now: now you—

    Makes an Arrangement

    Of many stems, the water, lukewarm, the water whose irenic ladder down
    to a slant clip in going giving to the stem a greener opening

    who gives a period

    and gives to live in lost continuation

    of oneself, sticks caught
    in peace of stones, in clouds shaped as a windpipe

    at a no more foreign accent

    true in the woods
    there is in trillium, a wild against the skin

    and body the very gesture could be true, body drawn truce
    in the pencil-looks of life, from nature

    drawn and made of water—drawn of rush, copper, salt—of flowers the earth
    why not bestows

    what makes me know
    in a faucet hue, could silver

    warm to be a hue (to bird down, beauty, hide)
    time and water rooming

    in the ewer base, then you (good
    god) is true, and futures on the glass of flower cooler, and past,

    a glass (in time comes in), a second-seeded eucalyptus, and drops

    on glass, and split-off thoughts, on cooler door,
    diminutives of mass—

    the molecules, the hand-shaped streaks

    Return of the Native to the Widespread Hour

    In her yellow caravan, the feather merchant has sold out of wares.

    Ambitious only to feel her coat's inner lining, in performing one
    normal action backward, she sublimes, she goes beneath
    the oldest stone, she greets the interruptive
    shake before duration.

    Breathe on a harpsichord, and it will sound.
    Sink a chunk of salt on your tongue to name the ocean.

    The swan's distinctive contour will pinpoint the sky.

    So her resources are wanting to reach her:

    knowing with a red cloth tied at her neck
    where leafage is system to leaves.


    this region that moves the voice is made of ears

    so that a region we are born to

    sounds like listening and we seem even older

    when we speak this way—like a glow of clay compressed—light

    as the hiddenness of the nonapparent

    sun being wind along the leaves—among pieces of recognition—

    bootprints that said footsteps on the day's clean floor—a flox's

    violent blue—a word or two more valuable

    than those surrounding it or them

    because made of what we eventually are (that is the region

    a region expanding the accent inward)

    glass washes up soft

    in fields that are folds of waves for you

    without edges to see and weigh it lightly (you)

    so that nearer to the heart (for me

    to say it) is not coming or going but is

    the lasting dissolution made particular

    as sea glass in the whole blue

    distances I

    and you inhabit


Excerpted from Green is the Orator by Sarah Gridley. Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Salt Marsh, Thick with Behaviors
Table of Consanguinity (The Cousin Chart)
Diminution of the Clear Thing
Half Seas Over
Jardins sous la Ppluie
Sweet Habit of the Blood
Is He Decently Put Back Together?
Under the Veil of Wildness
Coming to the Festival of the God of Boundaries
Makes an Arrangement
Return of the Native to the Widespread Hour
Thicket Play
Honey Ants
Sending Owls to Athens
William James, Henry James
Sunrise with Sea Monsters
Where Hardly Hearth Exists

Sonnet on Fire
The Bad Infinity
A General Discrimination of Synonyms
Antonyms & Intermediaries
First Inspirations of the Nitrous Oxide, Pneumatic Institute, 1799
Second Inspirations of the Nitrous Oxide

Disheveled Holiness
Medieval Physics
A Boredom of Spirit
Gothic Tropical
Film in Place of a Legal Document
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
The Orator’s Maximal Likelihood
The Beauty of Where We Have Been Living
Anatomy of Listening
If It Be Not Now
Morse Gives Up Portraiture
Constable of the Sweet Oblong
Building Box (Atlantic)
Summer Reading


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"Orator's speech springs from revelation and desire, but its heart is in its observational exactness and reticence."—Kenyon Review

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