Sunday, March 25, 2018

Many Parishes - Adrian Koesters (BrickHouse Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Many Parishes.  Adrian Koesters.  BrickHouse Books.  Baltimore, Maryland.  2013.

Today's book of poetry will get to Adrian Koesters superb Many Parishes in a moment.  

We wanted to take a brief moment to mention David Steingass.  Our southern correspondent David Clewell has opened eyes around here with his recommendations and insist-upons.  David "Twangster" Clewell happened to mention recently that David Steingass had been an important mentor to him.  As is happens we had an early book by Steingass on hand, Body Compass (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1969), and took it down as soon as we got the word from Clewell.  

Consider this as a toast to Mr. Steingass and a tip of the hat to our southern friend.

Daydream  -  David Steingass

As a boy,
I thought no one could speak
Until he had learned.
I crept to the birds
And listened with my mouth
Open. I imagined
The birds were standing
In my mouth.


Adrian Koesters splendid Many Parishes is really three books in one.  Koesters must have realized this as she has neatly gathered these poems into three sections in her book; "Parochial World," "The Nuns Who Never Existed" and "Many Parishes."

Along the way Koesters tackles all the big subjects; love, sex and death.  But she's even better in the underbrush of grief, the shadow of doubt and then the strong and reassuring voice of reason waltzes in like she owned the place.  These poems not only work hard, they work on the page.

Sonnet for SoWeBo

The ten-year-old spinster sits on the back roof
          looking out on to a frame of wire and windows
lined with cotton underwear and lingerie,
          fathers smoking out onto the slips and housecoats
shaded by trees not even God intended to bring
          out of the Garden. She leans out in her undershirt, she
hears a radio, crooning something foreign and new
          from Lemmon Street where her colored sitter lives,

and she shrinks from the men who crawl along the back gates
          to beckon: "Come on down, sweetheart, I got something
over here to show you," and when she waits to come to them,
          they snarl and command as if she owed it,
because she is small and they are not,
          because they are exposed and need a hand.


Koesters is searching for the "secret answer" and until she finds it she's willing to implicate every suspicion.  In Koesters world it is her "deeply spiritual" intuition that spirals through these poems like a Spirograph of knowing.  She does find answers along the way but most of them lead to more questions.

Koester climbs that ladder until these poems emerge somewhat pure of heart and hellbent on securing reason.  Adrian Koester knows that to learn a real lesson there may be real pain in the answer and still she pushes to that end.  Today's book of poetry ultimately thinks that Koesters is a realistic optimist.

Following Intentions

Feeling accidents, dead of
winter, new year's remorse,
uncertain return
of love. We anticipate
but ought to predict, as when
the second clementine tastes
as sweet as the first, the web
of yellow veins pulls easy
from the fruit, the half-bottom
sections divulge everyday
secrets in the pale juice. As
it is, there are rooms
to be cleaned, the bed
made up, relatives to phone.
If you were one of these,
the rest would be easy;
as it is, I don't pretend to more
than step down, breathe out,
smooth up.


Our morning read was a rather mixed affair with a surprising number of people running about and through the Today's book of poetry offices.  Earlier today our Sr. Editor, Max, saved a catastrophe when he stopped me from posting an entirely new post about a chapbook that we had already covered.  The entire chapbook had been reproduced in its entirety in a larger volume that Today's book of poetry had already posted a blog about.  My brain is old and stupid.

Adrian Koesters snapped me out of that daze and provided ample material for our staff to let their ya-ya's out.  We included Koesters more recent Three Days with the Long Moon (Brickhouse Books, 2017), in our morning read.  We're hoping that Koesters more recent title will be fodder for the future Today's book of poetry poetry machine.

In Another Winter
           for Boyd Benson

We take this child we call belief, stand
it up against the darker children,
make it behave in rounder consonants,

as if there were soft ways
to see into the sky. All the green stains
I have loved seep into shirttails
pressed too long into the field

where sometimes the corn flecks,
at others stubble frosts over and is glad. Pretty,
how pretty it all might be,

in winter, as a January afternoon
folds over into February, and the darkness
explains itself, takes its threat
and curves it into a pocket:

the jacks, balls, and marbles at rest
under thrifty fingers not ready,
yet, to hold softer hands than these.


Today's book of poetry was somewhat enchanted to be in Adrian Koesters world, as dark and tumultuous as that sometimes is.  Koesters is in their asking that hard question.  As it sometimes happens with one book or another, an author opens a door and invites you in.  Koesters world was entirely worth the visit.

Image result for adrian koesters photo

Adrian Koesters

Adrian Koesters is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She attended high school in Bellingham, Washington, and has lived most of her life in Nebraska, where she has worked in Omaha and Lincoln as a high school teacher, secretary, sign language interpreter, academic advisor, editorial specialist, and university professor. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and a Ph.D. in English (fiction and poetry writing) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she was an assistant editor in Poetry for Prairie Schooner magazine and an assistant editor for Ted Kooser’s syndicated newspaper column, "American Life in Poetry.”She has taught creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Creighton University, and currently works as a research editorial specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“Koesters’ Many Parishes is an original. The poems seem to smack the hard-ass contemporary world up against a deep spiritual sense, until we see they’re one and the same. Adrian Koesters is able to write of men calling out to a ten-year old ‘spinster’ to ‘come on down, sweetheart, I got something over here to show you,’ and allow us to feel in her small, frightened heart the identical anguish of soul as in the nun who’s ‘divided from the principalities and goes in terror of them.’ These poems, like the nuns, ‘take things personally.’ They’re lyrical confessions of the deepest griefs—abuse, divorce, doubt, and loneliness. They provide absolution, and positively joy, in their skillful and lucid singing.” 
      —Fleda Brown, author of No Need of Sympathy

Adrian Koesters
"Sonnet for SoWeBo"
Video courtesy: BrickHouse Books



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