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Red Rover

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.

120 pages | 6 1/8 x 8 1/2 | © 2008

Phoenix Poets



“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.”

Ange Mlinko | Nation

“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.”

Library Journal

“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.”

Publishers Weekly

“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.”

Barbara Hoffert | Library Journal

“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.”

Times Literary Supplement

"The poems in Red Rover are profound, frimly grounded in the literary tradition and yet insistent upon reversal and chaotic, unexpected upending. They are a puzzle to return to over time and a blessing of immediacy."

Sacramento News & Review

"To pick up Susan Stewart’s latest volume of poems and to begin to read is to enter an enchanted place of childlike trust and imaginative force, tempered and unsettled by the dislocations of adult experience."

Rita Signorelli-Pappas | World Literature Today

"Among American poets, Susan Stewart is writing the most significant poetry of our time."

Lisa Williams | The Hollins Review

"’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

John Kinsella | Salt Magazine

Table of Contents



     The Owl
     Games from Children
          my mother’s garden
          king of the hill
          red rover
     Oil and Water
     Songs for Adam
          Adam lay a-bounden, bounden in a bond
          the names
          the dream
          the cool of the evening
          as clerks find written in their book
     The Green
     Thoughts made of cloth


     The Erl King
     The Former Age
     When I’m crying, I’m not speaking
     When I’m speaking, I’m not crying
     Gold and Soil
     Elegy Against the Massacre at the Amish School in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, Autumn 2006
     The Lost Colony
     The Complaint of Mars


     The Complaint of Venus
     Thoughts made of wood
     Variations on <<The Dream of the Rood>>
     Dialogue in San Clemente
     A Cone Flower
     In the Western World
          the sun is charity
          a boy’s voice
          the window seat
          the figure in the garden
          a little room
          the rocks beneath the water
          there is no natural death
          moon at morning
          the fox
     The Field of Mars as a Meadow
     A Constant State of Gravitation
     The Vision of Er
     The Fall
     Three Geese

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