Distributed for Autumn House Press
This collection weaves together themes of motherhood, immigration, social transformation, and interrogation. Throughout Seed Celestial, Sara R. Burnett writes haunting reflections on origins—of myth and memory, language and country, earth and mothers—as she looks to an uncertain future.
Bringing together contemporary issues of climate change, gun violence, and feminism while working from her own experience of raising a young daughter, she writes, “You were inside my body / while I was outside; / outside was everything else.” Burnett vividly renders her own origin story as an immigrant’s daughter using the myths of Demeter and Persephone. This book is a love letter to the earth the way only a mother can write it: appreciating all its faults while seeing its beauty. Burnett offers a poetry collection that is tender, and honest, akin to having an intimate conversation with a friend who tells us what we know to be true about ourselves, our twin capacities for love and violence, and what we don’t. She intertwines our violent, complicated world with the uncanny human capacity for hope and describes the awe of a world recreating itself again and again while wondering about all we lose and leave behind, especially for the next generation.
Seed Celestial is the winner of the 2021 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize, selected by Eileen Myles.
"Burnett's Seed Celestial is a quietly upending work. A book that’s often about maternity also includes the creation of the mother by the child. She’s comfortable with profundity, even conversational with it. 'I remembered / I had all eternity, / an empty glass to fill.' So the work is plain and beautiful and then surprising. She upends sentence structure to express family: 'Abuelo, there are moments when you’re in my head, / in evenings sometimes, my whole head, yours.' Her rhymes work like spice in cooking, understated here but always bringing it out, it being the varied rough texture of life. By the time she drops the term ‘endling’ ('when a species is the last of its kind') I think that she might be an endling herself in that she’s taking this time with existence, inhabiting it as she does in her poems, as this is all there is. For Burnett, poems are like a staff upon which lives are stretched and dangled - lovingly & smart. It simply happens here. But to get that we must listen."
Eileen Myles, author of Evolution
“Demeter, earth goddess and mother of Persephone, is the abiding presence of Seed Celestial, Sara Burnett’s quietly fierce, urgent, but also passionately affirmative exploration of the perilous joys of being both mother and daughter in the twenty-first century. Burnett’s clear-eyed and lyrical invocation of mothering as well as her poignant relationship with her Abuela, a Cuban exile, are deeply felt and lived.”
Michael Collier, author of The Missing Mountain
"Burnett's debut full-length asks all the right questions: 'Who will she be when she's grown? / Do I have time to shower?' What's it like to be a Demeter after the compromised end of Persephone's story? How can we keep on taking care of one another as the sky falls, water rises, extinctions close in on our world with its various blues? 'Mostly it's that I can't fly,' the poet muses, but there's still so much that she can do: drawing on Anglo and on Cuban heritage, on mid-Atlantic and tropical flora and fauna, the poet finds a Lucretian feminism alert to change, disarmingly various, supple in its rhythms, able to listen and to respond. 'And the key? Didn't I have it once?' Fans of Kasischke, of Meitner, and of tenderness take note: this poet is playing your song."
Stephanie Burt, author of Advice from the Lights
Table of Contents
Theory of Probability I
Dancing in a Dark Room
Fish (in) Tanks
Last Chance to See
Body, A Field
Field, A Body
Pupusas at St. Camillus Church
Dear Shame, Dear Sludge
After Viewing Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Blue Armchair Without My Ex
Cherchez la Femme
After Viewing Cassatt’s The Oval Mirror with my Daughter Sleeping
Next to Me
Letter to Another Mother with Excerpts from the Handbook on Mothering
What Was to Keep the Tigers at the Zoo
Why I No Longer Wear My Mother’s Ring
Here and There a Thing That Glitters
Use Bottom Cushion for Flotation Device
After the Storm
Theory of Probability II