Reading Novalis in Montana
This tour de force marks a breakthrough in Melissa Kwasny’s poetic investigation of a collective consciousness.
Drawing inspiration from Novalis (1772–1801), a poet who, like the other adherents of early German Romanticism, believed in the correspondence between inner and outer worlds, Kwasny divines the palpable and ineffable ways in which inherited traditions—indigenous culture, mythology, romanticism, modernism, surrealism, postmodernism, and more—inform daily life.
Finding inspiration in the mountain West, Kwasny weaves a shimmering web of connections. Throughout, details of lived experience emerge—hiking through the Pacific Northwest, caring for an elder’s great-granddaughter, helping a friend deal with cancer, sorting through the ruins of a relationship—and yet the interior voice is always tuned to the physical world, envisioning the shared understanding that connects all life.
Versatile in its forms and expressions, encyclopedic in its comprehension, Reading Novalis in Montana is a virtuoso performance.
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Praise and Prizes
“Romantic-environmental poetry of a high order, communing with nature in a language that never sells itself short. Can we imagine ourselves, gluttonous twenty-first century Americans, in a better relationship with nature? Can we see ourselves beyond artificial separations between the animate and the inanimate, between the sensate and the inert? Melissa Kwasny shows how, as she refuses to back down under the pressure of material degradation.”
“Truly refreshing . . . Reading Novalis in Montana never stops asking questions or trying to find answers, reminding the reader there is more to life than one settles for or often cares to know.”
“Erudite, sensitive, distilled, and deft. Reading Novalis in Montana is a positive and delicious read.”
“Melissa Kwasny’s poems strike that tension between the concrete and the ethereal. Here is a voice brave enough to admit loving ‘flowers / more than people’ and giving readers every reason to understand and celebrate that conviction. Read this book and know what it means to live with the world, rather than on it.”
“Melissa Kwasny’s work serves as a brilliant tonic, reminding us of the essential gravitas of poems of distinction. Hers present a richly textured surface and a deeply thought interior, and have a compass that deftly mingles the scholarly page with beauticians’ hopes and tobacco pouches; a naturalist’s tight focus with the wide gaze of a woman of the world; a lyricist’s gifts with a philosopher’s understandings. This is the real-deal stuff.”
“Meticulous in its moral attention, which is without sermon or admonishment . . . Like H.D., whom she paraphrases and in her artistry resembles, Melissa Kwasny knows ‘that image is not enough.’ Equally intuitive and erudite on the survival of mule deer in winter, Artaud’s tormented mind, or what to do with the chokecherry pulp after jelly-making, her prismatic attention never simply reconciles to the patina of past reference.”