WINNER OF THE THREE MILE HARBOR POETRY PRIZE: PRAISE FOR KATERI KOSEK’S AMERICAN ECLIPSE
“From celestial eclipses to the phases of a love affair always and inevitably ending in darkness, Kosek’s American Eclipse is an occluded landscape where wildlife collides with humanity, the country’s politics is as out of balance as the climate and the ecosystem is losing its rhythms. Amidst the real and metaphorical darkness, the poet seeks the visceral experience of watching the sun consumed: “Everyone,/apparently, … packing their bags for the path of totality—” Despite, or perhaps because of, this shadowy landscape, the poems stand out for their vibrancy and texture: “the soft dark flanks of mountains,” “autumn so perfect/it might go up in flames,” “Juniper berries popping on lush/ green grass,” and “the eyes of a bird,/ retinas pooling with oil.” Kosek’s poems succeed at combining beauty and waste, celebrating the world’s lushness and simultaneously knowing the part we play in its devastation. These poems mark the seasons of nature and out-of-season anomalies. In recording the small, recognizable moments, they act as a center of gravity to an off-kilter existence. American Eclipse takes us well past anything as simple as hope; like birdsong in the dark, “The last white sliver stuck. No one knows what happens next.”
—Sarah Sousa, author of poetry collections See the Wolf and Split the Crow
“What is an eclipse? A strange darkening, an exceptional shadow. But also a strange light, a moment that startles us into new awareness of larger forces we don’t usually notice in our daily lives, new questionings of what we thought we saw and knew. “And when I looked up, the mountains—jagged, / too imposing, I’d thought, to lose—had vanished again,” writes Kateri Kosek. The poems of American Eclipse consider the world thrown into strange light: by politics, pandemic, intimate sorrow, and climate grief. These poems examine the world, “how it looks so harmless, / so under control,” slowing to consider trees, bees, and more with a naturalist’s accuracy, detailed and backed by history, ecology, and years of wonderment. Kosek’s unflinching eye includes the speaker’s own culpability, not asking for forgiveness or approval but, rather, seeking truth’s messier, stranger entanglements.”
—Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Toward Antarctica and editor of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry
“Emily Dickinson characterizes the lives of women as a “soft eclipse.” In this collection of poems, Kateri Kosek offers us a hard eclipse, as framed by the astonishing account of solar darkness by Annie Dillard. Between the two occultations, we have life as it is experienced by someone who is alive to nature and to the nature of our contemporary culture. In Kosek’s American Eclipse, we find—unveiled— work filled with luminous poetry.”
—Paul Kane, author of A Passing Bell.