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Fire Road


"Spinoza is rubbing my glasses again, leaving / the middle range blurred for a reason. / Any truth is a blur," Barbara Carlson begins one poem, then carries us to Spinoza's periphery with Miro, Chekhov and Jesus in quick order. Truth is not only a blur, but what we find in the unexpected. It is the "haunting music" in all that is unmusical, but out of which this essential book of poems creates an essential music. Ranging from Hungary and Slovenia, across the US continent, from Orpheus and Schubert the everyday world of love and death, Carlson gives speech to the "unspoken." Yes, we are driven up a Fire Road that is rarely travelled except by hikers and emergency vehicles and we find ourselves in the uncanny position of both wondering and mending, of discovering that "the light of dead stars / is full of gusts and grace." All of which is to say this is an amazing first book, a wonder, a book I dearly cherish. -Richard Jackson Carlson evokes blindness, deafness, and muteness over and over in Fire Road. Speechless yet compelled to speak, she works to articulate the surreal, kaleidoscopic world around her. In the process she discovers that "If the words make you mute your soul will be fed." A soul is seeking - and not always finding - its mate in the universe but Carlson's courage pushes her on. Reading this sojourner's book the boundaries of my own world dissolved and another universe was revealed. -Tam Neville The poems of Barbara Carlson follow in the now-quite-venerable tradition of surrealism. They are poems where the world of dream and of the world of our quotidian lives comingle and coexist. But Carlson is never interested in the easy pyrotechnics and associative glibness which so often characterize poems that nod to the surrealist tradition. Instead, she offers her mysteries in a voice that is quiet, humble, humane, and the best of the work recalls certain moments in the lyrics of Bishop, Ritsos, and Follain, poets whose greatness lies in making what is homemade seem strange, and what is strange seem matter-of-fact. These are bracing and durable poems, and their delights and insights are many. - David Wojahn Hide synopsis

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