Voice Message

Katherine Barrett Swett

Voice Message

Katherine Barrett Swett

Distributed for Autumn House Press

72 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper $16.95 ISBN: 9781938769528 Will Publish March 2020
Through the poems of Voice Message, Katherine Barrett Swett reflects on her personal tragedy and the fragility of human lives and bodies with a tender care. Her debut collection explores the powers of art and poetry to participate in the processing of catastrophic grief, speaking through both the consolation and devastation these creative works can offer. Swett’s formal verse provides a lens through which sadness, destruction, and loss appear as aberrant and inevitable. In tragic lyric, the poet searches poetry, art, mythology, and her own memory for the fleeting image of her lost daughter “in music, painting, or a carved stone name.” Frequently looking to visual arts for inspiration, she finds that Vermeer’s paintings of distant rooms guide and contextualize pain, offering motivation, comfort, and release. Through villanelles, sonnets, quatrains, and free verse, Swett invokes the voices, narratives, and images, both personal and cultural, that haunt her speakers. Suspended in the aftermath of the unexpected and unspeakable death of her college-age daughter, the poet’s language is held together in a somber and necessary restraint. But this restraint does not signal the peace of closure. Rather, these poems quietly and steadily remind readers it is still “the open wound / not the scar,” that “all we have are words and flesh,” and that we are forever vulnerable. The rhythm of and echoes of sonnets and songs lead us to the sticky intersections of tragedy, recovery, and strange forms of beauty.
 
Contents
Part I: Songs and Sonnets Chainsaw Two Woodcuts: Red Fuji & Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Two Villanelles: Flute Song & Winter Light Three Songs Father Never Disappear Song in Flood Time What Can’t Be Bright Hair Seven Sonnets Yet Another View Voice Message Missive Stuff Summer Sonnet Penultimate City of Refuge Part II: Vermeer’s Daughters The Girl with the Wineglass Woman in Blue Reading a Letter Officer and Laughing Girl Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window A Woman Asleep Woman with a Pearl Necklace Woman with a Lute A Lady Standing at a Virginal Woman Holding a Balance The Music Lesson The Lacemaker The Milkmaid Young Woman with a Water Pitcher Girl Interrupted at Her Music Vermeer’s Daughters Part III: Marginalia Marginalia Dust The Poe Cottage, 1992 The Sun Rising Artificial Nightingale Mrs. Van Winkle Don Giovanni Gertrude Stein Helen at the Distaff Penelope and the Suitors Fairy Tale Storage Wine Late This Summer Night
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