May 17, 2018
Compelled by instincts of song and prayer, Stem of Us explores poetic choices to open into the world a way of connection, even and especially in the face of injustice and sorrow. These stems offer both common ground and transformative possibilities of what cannot be named, but what can be recognized as a shared dream, what calls us into being on this earth.
According to Willa Schneberg, recipient of the Oregon Book Award, “Carter McKenzie chooses a plethora of open forms to perfect her poetic strategies… always multilayered and surprising. An apparent nature poem (‘In the Midst of Place, Thoughts on Juneteenth’) or an ekphrastic (‘Subject Matter’) are never what they initially appear to be, and hold opposites within—an exquisite tension between transcendence and disquiet, whose subtext is always ‘…she refuses/ to bury this…'”
Skein of Light author Karen McPherson adds, “Stem of Us is a beautiful and important book. For Carter McKenzie, poetry is in and of the world, and it is this world—in all its devastating and brilliant complexity—that she invites into her poems. Whether she is witnessing the distressed cry of a dog that nobody seems to heed or sorrowing over her brother’s suicide; whether she is denouncing acts of violence and cruelty or embracing moments of beauty and possibility; whether she is pondering or probing or exhorting or praising, Carter McKenzie is always generous, reverent, authentic. The poems in Stem of Us are spacious distillations of what language can and cannot hold and what it must.”