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on October 27, 2010
Anyone who spends time with horses on a regular basis will say this - horses live in and through their bodies more fully, more intensely, and more beautifully than any other animal who shares its life with man. It is this quality of em-bodiment, the swift mutable vessel that horses are for so many of our sentiments and pre-lingual yearnings that keeps bringing poets to the horse. "Say this of Horses" is a uniquely composed record of this relationship as well as testimony to poetry's own qualities of em-bodying, magnifying, and transforming a human experience. From the sixth-century ode by Imru' al-Qays to poems of Maxine Kumin, from the veterinary-poet Michael List to the modern Russian classic Varlam Shalamov, this book annuls period, movement, and fashion and seeks instead to measure the communal power of seventy-four poets against the might of the horse, the want to "say something/about Nance and Birdie," as Roger Pfingston simply puts it.
Editors C. E. Greer and Jenny Kander provide the collection with a six-part structure which is a reflection of six major themes: "Antiquity" - encounters with the folkloric and the ritualistic as well as archeological presence of the horse in humans' distant past; "Here, Now" - experiences of immediate physical interaction; "Essence" - intuitions about the horse's metaphysical qualities; "Harnessed," arguably the most straightforward selection, is dedicated to the horse in its varied service to the man; "Mirrors" - projections made possible by the image and trope of the horse; and finally, "Lenses," a set of journeys into dream-scapes aided by the horse.
The equine quality of em-bodiment, of living intensely and eternally in one's physical shape infuses the house and its new inhabitant, invites a dream of merging. This yearning comes time and again to the crux of this collection. In Maxine Kumin's "The Summer of the Watergate Hearings" and Tess Galagher excerpt from "If Poetry Were Not a Morality," James Wright's "A Blessing" and Linda McCarriston's "Healing the Mare," the human speakers look to horses for a shape, a body that they and their lives lack so incorrigibly. The poems in which theirs and others' quest results combine into a piercingly precise and fittingly elegant reading, which, like a horse, is always, already a step elsewhere.
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