Red Rover is both the name of a children’s game and a formless spirit, a god of release and permission, called upon in the course of that game. The “red rover” is also a thread of desire, and a clue to the forces of love and antipathy that shape our fate. In her most innovative work to date, award-winning poet and critic Susan Stewart remembers the antithetical forces—falling and rising, coming and going, circling and centering—revealed in such games and traces them out to many other cycles. Ranging among traditional, open, and newly-invented forms, and including a series of free translations of medieval dream visions and love poems, Red Rover begins as a historical meditation on our fall and grows into a song of praise for the green and turning world.
“What we cannot fail to hear, in Red Rover, is a wise and troubled lullaby for what may yet prove to be the infancy of our species.”
“Understated and Zen-like, these are carefully rendered poems. Setting a prayerful tone and somber theme, Stewart looks back to the Garden of Eden with a stunning evocation of the creation story and the murder of Abel. . . . Stewart uses figures of speech and sound not just as a way to provide glitter but as a way to create contemporary versions of classical tragedy.”
“Stewart offers sequences and serial poems that move across historical time, and continually reveal the ominous hiding in the innocuous, or vice versa (“burning bread smells like / baked earth”). . . . This gathering of poems, with their masterful cadences, allegorically pitched narratives and various speakers “bound / deep to old griefs and wonder,” build toward an indictment of aggression and war. . . . These poems ask the reader to register anew, from 'small changes of perspective,' the darker implications [of] what we take for granted.”
“In these elegantly crafted poems, Stewart cocks her head and looks at the world a little differently, capturing an owl’s flight, a boy’s voice, a terrible massacre in beautiful but unfussy language that wants to communicate. No nursery rhymes here but instead a deep understanding of the edginess and violence that seep unbidden into our lives.”
“Stewart’s formal dexterity enriches the book as form and content palpably influence one another. . . . This range creates a sense of profusion that complements the book’s redemptive vision of the natural world.”
"'Elegy Against the Massacre at the Amish School in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, Autumn 2006' . . . is one of the most significant poems written out of America.”--John Kinsella. Salt Magazine