A Turn Around the Mansion Grounds:
Poems in Conversation & A Conversation
by Amy M. Clark and Molly Peacock
Fall 2014 from Slapering Hol Press and Hudson Valley Writers Center. In this third book in a series of limited-edition collaborative chapbooks by established and emerging female poets, Peacock and Clark present sixteen poems followed by a conversation about the poems, the collaboration, and the craft of poetry.
Amy's poem "Why We Love Our Dogs" included in the 32 Poems anthology
Amy's poem "Arc"
included in Garrison Keillor's new anthology
Good Poems, American Places
A Must-Read Book of 2011 selection by the Massachusetts Center for the Book
Winner of the 2009 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry from University of North Texas Press
WITH CANDOR, PRECISION, AND ELEGANCE,
Amy M. Clark fashions poems that combine the intensive self-scrutiny of Philip Larkin with the measure and economy of Elizabeth Bishop. Sweeter than the former and more intimate than the latter, Clark burnishes the poems in Stray Home with exquisite understatement and formal control, but her deceptively placid surfaces harbor depths both troubled and profound. Clark’s spare diction and unflinching regard can register the subtlest disturbances, whether addressing the suppressed pain and shame of living as a childless woman in a world of mothers, the dissociation attendant on depression and fraught family relationships, or the search for a sense of belonging in the face of dislocation. Witty without frivolity, ironic without bitterness, and unapologetically feminine in their point of view, the poems in Clark’s award-winning debut cut deeply to discover the buried emotions and insights universal to all suffering and compassionate human beings.
◊ ◊ ◊
In the opening poem of Stray Home, Amy M. Clark calls our attention to the act of seeing and its moral implications. The rest of the collection deepens and expands our vision through Clark’s wise, sympathetic observations. To the age-old topics, she brings fresh perspective, as in the title poem, a sonnet sequence that investigates the changing nature of a mother-daughter relationship. Clark is also able to imbue our small, usually overlooked moments with unexpected grandeur; we hear an older couple’s conversation in a restaurant and revealing exchange with their waitress, and we also have a speaker who muses wryly on “Postcards from the Best Women Friends of Our Men.” The technique here—tercets, terza rima, skillful free verse—is beyond reproach, and a quiet humor, reminiscent of Philip Larkin, is employed in service of her twin gifts, imagination and metaphor (we have an argument that “fishtails, as a car on black ice,” and a speaker who says of a neighbor, “I knew her the way the fence’s outer side/ knows its inner side. Only that it has an inner side”). This is an accomplished, deft, and important debut.
—Beth Ann Fennelly, contest judge, author of Unmentionables and Tender Hooks
◊ ◊ ◊
Page after page, Stray Home seduces with understated wit and formal virtue, then “turns” on you. “Nobody likes to be near/the betrayed,” Clark writes in “Dumb” (an expert upping-of-the-ante). True enough. And yet her stringent visions—slyly rhymed; compressed in quatrains, tercets, and couplets; deployed over taut yet flexible free-verse—absorb you with the intimacy of the close-up: erotic, yes, and discomforting. Stray Home shows how we love—“I pressed against//my love’s back, all that’s good as near/as that”—but also the costs of coming too close to “the traitor pulse.” Clark’s poems smart—that is, their intelligence stings.
—Steven Cramer, author of Goodbye to the Orchard
◊ ◊ ◊
Amy M. Clark’s polished and crystalline poems, with their perfected formal surfaces, are magic lenses where the truth keeps coming into focus. Aren’t we all impostors, unsure of our roles, surprised at how we’ve turned out? Suddenly the safe rooms where we huddle don’t seem like home anymore. Humorous, sympathetic, and fiercely honest, Amy M. Clark doesn’t hesitate to look at “the treasury of muck” between the stove and the cupboard, or uncover that uneasy feeling you have when someone hands you a new baby or you feed your dog a biscuit when you know she’s scheduled to die in the morning. Stray Home is a book that’s as enlightening as it is enchanting.