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Columbarium

Winner of the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award in the category of poetry.

In her long-awaited fourth book of poetry, Susan Stewart gives us a series of splendid, numinous poems about truths learned with the mind but set free through the senses. Modeled on the seventeenth-century practice of century forms, or books of one hundred pages, Columbarium expresses the bond between the living and the dead in voices of parent to child, lover to beloved, and mortal to the gods. The book arrives as a meditative gift from one of our most respected poet-critics.

Stewart frames her Columbarium with four poems paying homage to the elements-to their destructive and creative aspects and to their roles in the human and more than human worlds. Both nest and crypt, the book’s center holds an alphabet of "shadow georgics," poems of instruction and doubt that link knowledge and the unconscious. Questions of mortality, of goodness and suffering, and of the fragility and power of memory animate these poems. In one poem an apple calls the narrator back from the dead to savor the echoes of its varieties in myth and literature. In another, the seeds of a pear tree reveal the essential unity that makes the diversity of existence possible.

Stewart’s Columbarium is both a memorial to the dead and a testament to life.

Read an excerpt.


132 pages | 6-1/8 x 8-1/2 | © 2003

Phoenix Poets

Poetry

Reviews

"The poems in this year’s National Book Critic’s Circle-winning volume are disarmingly--and deceptively--direct, refracting light in every direction like the little gems that are. Stewart observes the world carefully and comes up with some startling conclusions."

Library Journal

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

I THE ELEMENTS
Sung from the generation of AIR
Drawn from the generation of FIRE

II SHADOW GEORGICS
Apple
Bees
Braid
Cross/X
Dark the star
Forms of Forts
Let me tell you about my marvellous god
Two Brief Views of Hell
shadow/ Isaiah
Jump
Kingfisher Carol
Lightning
shadow/ Lintel
What You Said about the Moon
Night Songs
Now in the minute
O
Pear
The History of Quiver
Rewind
The Rose
Scarecrow
The Seasons
shadow/ Shadow
From "Lessons from Television"
These Trees in Particular
Unless and Until
Lost Rules of Usage
Vigil
Weather
Wings
X/Cross
To You and For You
Zero

III THE ELEMENTS
Wrought from the

Awards

National Book Critics Circle Board: National Book Critics Circle Award
Won

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