Selected by Patricia Fargnoli as winner of the Snowbound Chapbook Award
A meditation on the death of a mother, Meridian measures the hours and reflects on how experience collapses and elongates time, creating a lens through which we can look at how we’re connected and separated. And the poet asks: Is music our best refusal to accede to the irrationality of death?
Moving deftly in and out of ‘the small apartment where my mother lay dying,’ laced with memory and opened into aftermath, Meridian is a study, by a probing spirit, in darkness and snow, of private sorrow mirrored in larger patterns: of celestial passage, of excavations in the opened earth. Musically cadenced, contemplative, respectful of silence — these taut, resonant lines bear not one extra ounce of language, but only and exactly what will suffice.
— Eleanor Wilner
I have long considered Kathleen Jesme a truly remarkable poet. In Meridian, however, she outdoes herself. Jesme fills this lyric chronicle of the death of her mother with precise observations, strange silences, and breathtaking moments of beauty and music. Whether she dwells on the relentless snow whispering around the house or slips into crystalline recollection of her mother’s slow failure, I sense in these poems a subtle mind at work on an unsolvable problem. For Jesme knows we can find neither clarity nor conclusion in the emptiness death leaves behind, but must always circle around it, reaching for meaning in the images and memories that surround us as we prepare to grieve, and then grieve. ‘I am swimming toward you,’ she writes late in the poem, ‘through / the past / which clings to me / and holds me / back / and up.’ Meridian is not merely a beautifully written, ambitious poem—it is also the most moving I have read in a long time.
— Kevin Prufer
. . . a sweeping book made up of serial poems—long sequences of short, tonally related lyrics—that . . . delve deep into the sensuality of brief, everyday occurrences with a radiant clarity. . . . Many of the poems are thick with aesthetic revelry, and . . . their cumulative effect can be mesmerizing. . . . luminous glimpses of various lives.
— from Publishers Weekly’s
review of The Plum-Stone Game
She was becoming a dead person,
but she hadn’t yet
arrived. And there were few
similarities, other than the
familiar smell of her body, to what
she had once been.
My father, as I recall, smelled like
saltwater in summer
and in winter like old wool and
2:22. There isn’t much here but a spoon
and a hand with an arm to lift it.
A mouth. Soup. Salt.
would net potable water
with no salt in it. There
are some things we
can’t. Reverse. But.