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Nude in Winter
is the second book of poetry from the award-winning Minnesota poet Francine Sterle, whose first, Every Bird is One Bird
, was the Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize Award winner in 2001.
The new book is composed of "ekphrastic" poems or poems about art. Reginald Gibbons, a much lauded writer, Guggenheim award-winner and professor of English at Northwestern University writes, "Francine Sterle’s lucid and prismatic book is an art gallery made of words… Attuned to both the erotic and spiritual, this is a beautiful book."
Already nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize, these poems pick up after the artist’s brush is put down. Sterle seduces us into the canvas with urgent, provocative language. She delves into a diversity of artists and images-from Monet and Degas to Helen Frankenthaler and the contemporary photographer whose startling image is on the book’s cover, Craig Blakelock. Sterle’s poems engage the powerful dynamic between desire and disturbance, so common and yet so mysterious in the creative process. Eminent poet Jane Hirshfield says that what distinguishes Nude in Winter
"is its fierce muscularity, the active originality of these descriptions." Eleanor Wilner extends that praise, calling Sterle "protean, visceral and visionary."
"I am deeply moved by these poems," said Jeffrey Levine, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Tupelo Press. "Francine Sterle’s gaze is uncompromising as she takes us on a startling journey into the realm of the tortured and the adored, from the darkest corners of human experience to the light of understanding and renewal."
Protean, visceral, visionary: Francine Sterle is "the poet [who] aims her words at what’s unworded." Entering work after work of art, she releases "the pressure of concealment" in what is mute to reveal the "deforming forces," "the buried grains of regret," "the geology of grief." Her loving eye embeds itself in the matter it illuminates, unafraid of what it sees, and "radiance/ breaks through/ the darkened heart."
"The body is entitled to some lyricism," Francine Sterle insists in a series of ekphrastic poems that deepen into "sumptuous facades" so that they might attempt "more than learning to see." If "Ingres believed the only way to possess a woman / was to paint her," Sterle believes that passionate lyric engagement might be a means of possessing these paintings. "Touched by the erotic," her poems gather into a gallery unlike any other, a museum of Sterle’s own making in which "The poet aims her words at what’s unworded" to cast light upon the divine, sometimes lascivious, and always "exquisite curves" of creation.
"Francine Sterle’s lucid and prismatic book is an art gallery made of words. Nude in Winter exemplifies the way poetry can restore the static image to the realm of time, where it can move and breathe. Sterle’s poems also lead us from what we can see to what cannot be seen, from the tangible world to the inner life. Attuned to both the erotic and the spiritual, this is a beautiful book."
Tupelo Press offers this free, downloadable Nude in Winter Reader’s Companion
in PDF format. Click on the image or the link to download. (216 K)
1947-R No. 2
& quivering heat
& molten scarring
a field of ox blood-
ignites the mind’s
flammable surface &
as it rips & tears
as ragged flashes of black
rise like the devil’s
there are trapped
in this bottomless world
in the parched
center of this stifling life
resilient splashes of white
& so a little radiance
the darkened heart
& yet how far away
from the burning soul
From Midwest Book review
, reviewed by Margaret Lane
The poetry of Francine Sterle is as memorable as it is unique, as superbly crafted as it is lyrical. Nude In Winter
will prove to be a welcome introduction to one of the most distinctive voices in American poetry today. “The Uncertainty of the Poet: Giogrio de Chirico”: Near the dark arches of the arcade,/a headless, plaster torso of a woman./By her dimpled hip, two dozen/green and yellow bruised bananas.//Off in the distance,/a train with its ample banner of steam/speeds left into oblivion. Menacing,/monumental shadows master what we see./Wait: the wish of reason is revered./The poet aims her words at what’s unworded,/startled by the horizon’s vaporous wall.