FINALIST FOR THE KINGSLEY TUFTS AWARD
Meditative and richly written, this collection of poems by Kathy Fagan takes the sycamore as its inspiration—and delivers precise, luminous insights on lost love, nature, and the process of recovery.
“It is the season of separation & falling / Away,” Fagan writes. And so—like the abundance of summer diminishing to winter, and like the bark of the sycamore, which sheds to allow the tree’s expansion—the speaker of these poems documents a painful loss and tenuous rebirth, which take shape against a forested landscape. Black walnuts fall where no one can eat or smell them. Cottonwood sends out feverish signals of pollen. And everywhere are sycamores, informed by Fagan’s scientific and mythological research—shedding, growing tall, pale, and hollow enough to accommodate a person. Fluidly metaphorical; filled with references to film, sculpture, and architecture; and linguistically playful—“Word games reveal a lot,” says Fagan’s speaker—these poems unflinchingly lay bare both the poetic process and an emotional one.
Spellbinding and ambitious—finding catharsis in wordplay and the humanity in nature—Sycamore is an important new work from a writer whose poems “gleam like pearls or slowly burning stones” (Philip Levine).