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Nettles

Poems

by Betty Adcock

60 pages / 5.50 x 9.00 inches / None

Poetry

  Paperback / 9780807111031 / December 1983

In Nettles, Betty Adcock writes of the sharp, subtle pains that puncture life, of the darkness that mourning casts across our days, and of how even our most sublime memories are inevitably tinged with loss. These poems recall the distinct smell, feeling, and look of an autumn day; the light thrown into a passing car by a house near the highway; the quiet stability of a marriage that has arrived at the moment of its twentieth anniversary:

And whatever singing, forgetting or nightmare
howled in this house between man and woman
the child laughing or stilfling
in clenched sleep, here
it is summer and cool, the shelves
green with okra, beans, pears in clear jars.

But with these images and thoughts come other memories, painful recllections that transcend their own moments in time to overshadow all of the past. Adcock writes of how youth can be darkened by a mother’s death; achingly tries to reconstruct a father’s death in a hunting accident; and relfects on the fragments left by the past ina grandmother’s quilt chest:

The wide lid is one board,
heart of a pine we’d never recognize,
shut now upon nearly nothing,
a faint salt dust only,
flakings from the dreamed-under patterns,
leather-flecks from saved baby shoes
sweet odor of dead sex, vinegar or sweat,
breath caught
a hundred and fifty years
in this wood’s strong current.

Writing of both joy and loss, Adcock explores in these poems how life is forever alloyed with death and how hope must, of necessity, be mixed with apprehension and sadness. 

Betty Adcock is the author of six books of poetry: Slantwise, Intervale, The Difficult Wheel, Beholdings, Nettles, and Walking Out. A recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Poets' Prize, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Prize for Poetry, the Hanes Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and Guggenheim Fellowship, Adcock teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.

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