Monday, February 13, 2006

field stone by Catherine Kasper

Winnow Press, 2005

Reviewed by Jen Tynes

The stones that Catherine Kasper references in her epigraph seem solid, though illuminated, straight-shooters. But the stones that I imagine, reading these poems, are the stones of land-art: stones arranged in spirals, waves, undulating lines. In the first section of this book, minimal use of end punctuation contrasts with mostly-conventional sentence structure to create poems like snakes, stones, like waves. From “Unearthing”:

             Both boxes could fit in your hand at the same time
             tiny—but I imagine—heavy
             snakes curving in eights or lifting a cobra head
             In a glass case, Kohl sticks turn turquoise with age
             as miniature patoikos figures, green and bald

These poems are ekphrastic, of observance — of foreign places, other people, ways of being. The general “you” at the beginning of “Unearthing” becomes more specific and mysterious later in the poem: “something you meant once / like migraine flashes—“ and “I though I had lost you.” In the first fourteen poems of “Blueprints of the City,” a you that flickers between general and specific turns suddenly into “we,” and the change is explosive. These poems say “from other places we could imagine ourselves anywhere” and “in line for a single hour we notice the white imperfections in our fingernails” and “there is a game of distance played between two people.”

There are collections in these poems — museums, objects from nature, colors of paint and the further objects they resemble. The collections, like collections of stones, become guides, pathways along the “distance...between two people.” These pathways are bridges, they are equally uniting and dividing: they hold a tension between them. When, in the third section of the book, the speaker of “Number 1: Another Sunday” says “I wanted something/ more monastic” it’s the want that resonates, the outside that crackles.


CATHERINE KASPER is the author of Optical Projections, a chapbook of short stories (Obscure Publications, 2004). Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Ohio Review, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Leviathan and Is This Forever or What? (Greenwillow/Harper Collins, 2004). Her awards include a PEN Texas Award and AWP Intro Award, and a Writer's League of Texas fellowship. She is presently an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


lives in Providence, Rhode Island and edits Horse Less Press. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, No Tell Motel, DIAGRAM and H_NGM_N. Her first full-length collection of poetry, The End of Rude Handles, will be available from Red Morning Press in early 2006.