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Bright Stranger


110 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available


  Paperback / 9780807162415 / March 2016
Brockman-Campbell Book Award Honorable Mention
In her beguiling new collection, Bright Stranger, Katherine Soniat invites the reader to celebrate the unfinished and unsure. The poems in this volume do not demand or offer certainty, existing instead in the spaces between the real and the imagined, between past and present and future. They explore the human connection to nature, contemplating loss in the erosion of rock spires and rebirth in the blossoming of an amaranth.
Visually playful lines recall the poems’ existence in the physical world, even as Soniat’s words transport the reader from the rugged isolation of the Grand Canyon, to the elements within the periodic table, and on to “the unwinding spool of grey” in the mythic underworld of Hades. Bright Stranger offers a soaring vision of the world in all its chaos, bewilderment, and joy.
i. study night and the river as if they hold the twin of all that disappeared
Green is a Word
Talk of Winter
A History of Religion
August Annals
ii. create volume and depth like you’re sending them to a friend who’s never felt such before
Phenomenology with a Future
Power Lines
What Else There Is To Do
After a Day at Bussard’s Farm
Things that Hang in the Air
iii. one can look years for the right meaning of departure
The Volga
Open House
Eurydice Turning
The Essential Eurydice
iv. no one to track. The hours and miles spent circling disappearance like a canyon
Bright Stranger
1. asylum
2. a beginning
3. river
4. strata
5. mantra
6. apocrypha
7. inquiry
v. deep calleth unto deep even to the dancing waterspout. And there a house spins round like home again
In a Fish-Blue Surround
One of the First Questions
Easter Inventory
Dodge/Luhan, Works in Progress
The Forest People
vi. such a baffled look as the beast lay stepped from. Almost forgotten
Dark and Secret Kin
Burnt October
The Earth Flashed, Fire Here
Black Roses
vii. who cares if the mouth has a beak or bells in the throat
The Silence
A Light Sleeper
Coastal Epithalamion
Aerial Photo-Ops of the Biome
Point, Line, and Plane

Katherine Soniat has taught at the University of New Orleans, Hollins University, and was a faculty member at Virginia Tech for twenty years. Currently, Soniat teaches in the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She has published work in many journals including Poetry, The Nation, The Southern Review, and Antioch Review, and her previous collections include The Swing Girl, Alluvial, and A Shared Life.

Praise for Bright Stranger

“Katherine Soniat’s poems in Bright Stranger devote sublime attention to the otherness of the presence of God, contouring the beauty of nature with the baffling particulars of existence. . . . In Bright Stranger, Katherine Soniat has created a stunning field guide for the woman wishing to be both more and less than the conscious creation.”—Image

“Much of Bright Stranger’s power is indeed subtle, derived from pauses and steady, careful pacing—our descent into the underworld measured step by deliberate step. . . . The poems of Bright Stranger vibrate—with a double-edged stillness, a self-knowledge braided, always, with an undercurrent of threat. For this, Soniat shows us, is what it means to journey into and among the shades of one’s life.”—Connotations Press

“Shield your eyes as you read Katherine Soniat’s Bright Stranger. The light often blinds in these mysterious, incantatory poems. It nearly keens, if shimmer can be said to have sound. Soniat has discovered a way to account for everything and, in so doing, wrought a language that lusciously abides in her venerated natural world, but also explores like a medium the barely apprehended liminal ether that surrounds it. Indeed, she traipses like Eurydice (a haunting presence throughout this volume) with equal grace and bravado between realms, reconciling the earth upon which we walk with fading apparitions of the past—‘the old decline of flesh that shifts / to language.’”—Joseph Bathanti, Poet Laureate of North Carolina

“In Katherine Soniat’s gorgeous new collection, Bright Stranger, the story of Orpheus and his lost love Eurydice threads its golden weave through strata of memory, myth, and math to create shimmering layers of language and logic. The auras of summer grasses form ‘plump geometries’ of light at sunset. Euclid’s ‘constellations of lines, rays, and segments’ represent ‘Certainties only the mind concocts.’ In poems of exquisite detail, a speaker—daughter, wife, mother, traveler—journeys through the ‘clips of a life’ knowing this inexorable fact: that ‘we’ll not pass this way again.’ She meditates on loss and mortality, and in the tour de force title poem, is visited by a fox with her dead husband’s nickname who asks (quoting May Swenson), ‘how will it be to lie in the sky’? Bright Stranger is stunning poetry.”—Cynthia Hogue, author of Revenance

“Katherine Soniat’s brilliant body of work has clearly built toward Bright Stranger, a large-scale, accomplished book of great rarity. In every surprising section, you feel you are reading a singularly expansive whole vision of the most intimate processes of transmutation. The poems confront the awakening moments that dare a solitary person to acknowledge the mysteries of fruitful and failed connection; they offer no hiding-from and no summing-up and no retreating into mere regret. After many rereadings, I cannot leave the amazing experience of Bright Stranger. I have read no single book of contemporary poems that I admire more.”—Kevin McIlvoy, author of The Complete History of New Mexico: Stories

“Katherine Soniat’s poems inhabit the fertile space of waking dream, where memory and myth, personal history and the present moment, spirit and the physical world swirl and move as one. Poised at the edge of oblivion, ‘circling disappearance like a canyon’—that ‘space before a word / comes for mountain’—Soniat bravely sings, and singing testifies to what can be made out of that nothingness.”—Luke Hankins, senior editor of Asheville Poetry Review

“Katherine Soniat’s Bright Stranger revitalizes nature poetry in all its wondrous, dirt-streaked glory. In Soniat’s world, wolves and condors can taste our blood, and we can feel the furred heat of being human—isolated, vulnerable, astonished. Dazzling and surreal sequences burst forth from caves and canyon walls, as a man swims with his beloved cow and a dog ‘falls into stanzas.’ Magical, godlike coyotes, foxes, and owls fill these brilliantly vivid, evocative poems in which ‘the human figure looks pointless.’ Soniat rips open the lyric poem, as the singular ‘I’ is displaced by the landscape. Confronted by the marvelous and bewildering animal kingdom, this speaker sheds ‘the human tongue.’ Bright Stranger is exciting, troubling—visceral to the bone.”—Hadara Bar-Nadav, author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign)

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