The Glacier’s Wake

Series: /
price:  $16.95
isbn:  0807152005
pages:  92

Selected by Melissa Kwasny as Winner of the 2013 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize Katy Didden’s poems take their measure from both personal and geologic time, from knowledge gained through science and that attendant to the heart. With precision and craft reminiscent of Bishop’s Questions of Travel, these are field notes for an earth alive and on the move: torrents, glaciers, volcanoes. Along the way, we visit the site of lovers buried under an avalanche in Innsbruck, the continuous beam of light Yoko Ono built on an island near Reykjavik, and Surtsey, the planet’s newest island. Didden has both a mathematician’s and a poet’s mind, gauging her life against the larger processes, imagining how, in the days before electricity, “you could mark your place in the universe / by how you fit / among the stars.—Melissa Kwasny Katy Didden’s remarkable first book is distinguished by a wide range of styles poem-to-poem, a dense aural texture as well as masterful use of rhyme generally, and heart. To say the poems have heart might seem surprising considering the Moore-like preponderance of cold scientific diction and Buntingesque physicality—or is it Loy she’s channeling? But Didden humanizes the elemental by making this kind of language sing, and sneaking in moments of emotional depth (about a glacier: “your jaw / cracks, splits a crevasse. / Little parts of you collapse.”). That the book is elegiac (the “sky’s brightening is not the sun / flattering you with its attention, / just the speed at which you’re spinning west”) makes the sudden switches from iciness to warmth and back resonate all the more. Read the final poem, “Perito Moreno Glacier,” and you’ll have to buy the book.—Elizabeth Arnold Informed by uncommon attention to what is manifest—the earth, its flora, its fauna, and its famously slippery slopes—Didden presses, with no less energy, into what isn’t seen, but is suspected. Didden’s is a capacious voice, able at once to deliver both wit and wonder, canny insight and meditative mystery. this is the approach to poetic vocation—a lush and laden lyric vividly voiced—that keeps me reading, and keeps me smiling as I do so.—Scott Cairns