The Good Dark
by Annie Guthrie
“[S]tuns with its metaphysical inquiry into what simultaneously detaches and attaches us to this world. The haunting music of these lyric poems lift out of a language of intimacy employed to address the delicate nature of belief. Annie Guthrie writes, ‘given everything/ the give forms our lips/ it’s only the shape of zero,’ and her clarity catapults us into our silences. She gives voice to the ‘blur’, which could be defined as an existence without ‘edges’ or ‘ledges,’ that still creates an entrance…a gift of infinite mindfulness.”
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In the sequence of poems comprising Annie Guthrie’s first book, the quest for the meaning of human consciousness and its tangled subjectivity is drawn as a slow-building narrative of the mystic experience. The journey enacted is that of the self as character, who encounters insurmountable mysteries in a breaking selfhood.
A dossier of contemplative exploration, THE GOOD DARK chronicles an immersive search in three acts: Unwitting, Chorus, and Body: stations through which the character must pass, and where she is accumulatively confessed, compounded and erased.
As Dan Beachy-Quick observes in his Foreword, “To pay accurate attention is to find yourself broken in two, or more than two. It is to be shattered by the world you seek into a self comprised of many selves, a chorus, each with its own voice: gossip, other, priest, oracle, reader, and one unnamed because she has no name.… these dark, necessary lines lay tangent to each other, glance against one intensity only to err into different discovery… where the body takes ‘the blame / for the deeds of the mind.’” Beachy-Quick calls THE GOOD DARK “a curious testament to the labyrinthine complexity of human relation to the world and those others that fill it.… There is nature, and there is God, and there is the gossip between them that the human ear eavesdrops upon… convolutions of heart to mind and mind to heart that understand love’s reciprocity is a confounded, confounding form.”
Poet Claudia Rankine writes, “THE GOOD DARK stuns with its metaphysical inquiry into what simultaneously detaches and attaches us to this world. The haunting music of these lyric poems lift out of a language of intimacy employed to address the delicate nature of belief. Annie Guthrie writes, ‘given everything/ the give forms our lips/ it’s only the shape of zero,’ and her clarity catapults us into our silences. She gives voice to the ‘blur’, which could be defined as an existence without ‘edges’ or ‘ledges,’ that still creates an entrance. THE GOOD DARK is a gift of infinite mindfulness.”
Julie Carr calls THE GOOD DARK a book of listening: “It listens to bird sound, thunder, the movement of a leaf or a cloud, the echoes and resonances of its own words — it listens even to silence which, as Guthrie tells us ‘has no edge.’ And THE GOOD DARK is a book of speaking: or shouting, whispering, confessing, and singing. In delicate and precise poems Guthrie addresses the darkness: the God gone missing or hiding in a mirror, the soul barely discerned. And this poetry, this ‘sheet music’ is so carefully rhythmic, so richly sonic, and so strong, it makes that darkness good.”
Thalia Field writes, “In THE GOOD DARK there are softened precipices where other sorts of fairy tales see horror. Anne Guthrie’s poetry has a more inclusive and forgiving frame, elliptical, obscured lens, or perhaps it’s a frame that splits and scatters across compelling still lives and environments.”
Poet Bhanu Kapil writes, “Annie Guthrie writes beneath the darkness. Above it. Next to it. Upon it. And below.”
* the gossip
I don’t always want what we have, she is saying.
Outside, dark clouds, fish hopping, tilling waves
back from shore. He is silent.
Sometimes more is happening, he says, finally.
The sun’s coming up, she says. Look how the light is kept.
I’d like to keep it up, he says.
Don’t make apart when otherwise the same, he says.
She is silent, tilling shore back from shore.
Don’t give darkness a face, he says, darkening.
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“Her brief and nicely spaced poems give us an occasion to think, to compound our interest, in what is seen and heard, but more — the stillness and flow vibrating between. This book is thankfully not a compilation of poems with complete pictures. It is more a reflection of the contours of thought. The technique is the art here, and the art is the technique.” — Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books