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2 New Reviews on The Swing Girl are in!

"In The Swing Girl, the provocative Katherine Soniat, Iowa Poetry Prize winner, fixes us in ancient Greece and in less obvious, equally solemn places fit for the imagination.

Her opening poem, "Thoughts at Paliani," is a haunting rumination from a convent on the island of Crete;  "Hummingbird of Ur" traces a frail creature along its path:
"Any which garden should be fine for a bird with less than/an ounce of meaning...."

The poet's combinations are striking and evocative. In "Self-Portrait with Amnesia," she has a Zen-like encounter with a woman who is depicted on an un- finished canvas:
Call her tabula tacit, say she's the primary silence.
Those who stare long enough find darkness expansive.

Soniat goes for the stark as well as the shadowy. "An Aerial Meander" swoops down from a snowy sky and looks in on an Old World townscape:
Enough softness here for a small village to bury its old in.
Body-wrap of quilts and sheets,
years of flesh packed up like the good bone china.

Yet the same poet is capable of the most sportive wordplay. In the staccato "Day Spool," a "windchime" yields "windtime," and "wood deck wood peck hood red ruby head" gives way to "noon-high sunsquash" andoh, you must read it for yourself. --From The Advocate, Andrew Burstein is Charles P. Manship, Professor of History at LSU and author of books on American political culture. His website is:

"In a 2007 interview with Andrew McFayden-Ketchum, Katherine Soniat states, "For me, poetry is the subtle work of the 'middle mind' that accesses the rational, the literal, and the subliminal at once." In Soniat's fifth poetry collection, The Swing Girl, that "middle mind" twines through territory wide-ranging and lyrical, delicate and violent.

Soniat's poems explore intersections--boundaries between animal and human, dream and consciousness, old and young, past and present, living and dead. In "An Aerial Meander," Soniat's detailed and traveling eye hovers over an elderly woman, relegated to her bed, near death:
Pillows surround her like re-embodied fowl.
She thinks of fleeing farther than the farthest farm,
her years of habitation trailing behind
as the shaking off of life begins.

In the same poem, flesh separates from bone as the woman's "[r]ib, hip, and pelvis roll through the sky" while the skin that remains is ". . . sucked in, / made small as a blood-red dot." What is left of this vital intersection between skeleton and skin is "small" yet vivid.
    The dead or near dead surface again and again in The Swing Girl--"a river thaws with the dead. It swims with them"--and Soniat's poems are their elegies. In "Breathing This Long," the "breath of a cow. . .scented by meadows" is juxtaposed with the violence of men hung from trees and "the young" who "dream of stick coffins." In "Impoverishment," Soniat writes:
The book of fluke, wing, and flesh is finished.
Whale, cockatiel, and the world's long line
of hungry children gone,
Ghettoed, shot, zooed, they disappeared like a swarm
of cosmic frictions nobody wanted.

But the dead are strangely lovely, too. In "The Hill Station," "a buzzard skeleton / winks its Christmas-light heart. Red again, then dark." Like the buzzard's heart, the dead often show themselves to the living. Soniat's "Ghost Laundry" gives us spirits that "brush up against us," "absences that are constant and faithless. . . ." As a daughter addresses her dead mother in "Birthday Crossing," we learn that ". . . [l]ike water, the memorized body // goes on."

The wonder of a collection like The Swing Girl is that its poems consider broad expanses of time and geography, yet Soniat's honed and careful language grounds the reader in the specific. Soniat suggests her own artistic approach to this dreamlike gathering of poems in "Nightshade":
. . .She decided to give in, as a painter might,
and let shadows offer direction. She'd follow with a sponge,
dab gold at the edges.

Katherine Soniat's shadows do "offer direction," and by the end of this collection, we are with the poet, ". . .trampling the middle air."  -- Meighan L. Sharp for The Hollins Critic

Featured Article

North Carolina Writers Network
Katherine is featured in the NC writers network in an article titled "Katherine Soniat: Poet, Teacher, Traveler"
Listen to Katherine on Wordplay's "Laureate Hour" with NC Poet Laureate, Cathy Smith-Bowers
From AsheviileFM every Sunday afternoon at 5:00pm
**Please note: Be aware of lead-in music at beginning of the interview for three minutes and again between sections 1-2 and 2-3.
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