Excavating Light by Diana Ewell Engel
"In Diana Ewell Engel’s Excavating Light, the natural world—a 'bruised sky,' 'a frozen tundra of warrior trees, / their branches unsheathed,' the 'ruby blur' of a cardinal 'buffeted by storm / grasping feeder perch'—is conjured through sensory evocations that are both rooted in concrete reality and laden with unforced, metaphorical resonance. Poem after poem in this excellent collection casts a sensitive but unsentimental light on what is lost and what abides as our vulnerable humanity is impacted by 'nature’s changing course untrimmed.'"
—Mark Smith-Soto, editor/associate editor of International Poetry Review and author of three prize-winning chapbooks
"Diana Ewell Engel’s powerful poems in Excavating Light teach us that there can be no love without eventual sorrow and loss. From her father’s books that still speak with her of his life’s love of the spiritual and his early death, to the aging gait of her mother’s slow steps on a beach she taught her children to freely love. Speaking to her father in one poem, Engel says 'what did we know of death/until you died/ and we became seagulls/ winging through morning/ searching for the bright to fill us…' In this collection, memory itself is a form of light, 'Grief' turned into hot cocoa, a crescent moon, 'Forest Language' of joy remembered. Engel’s marvelous poems, lyrical and image rich, teach us to mine life for light and purpose in a world too often filled with emotional quandaries and darkness."
—Bill Brown, author of eleven poetry collections and two-time recipient of fellowships in poetry from the Tennessee Arts Commission
"Diana Ewell Engel’s poems are above all lyrical, subtle in sound and rhythm. They offer well-wrought steps to view earthly joys and challenges, and also spiritual ground, where the reader can meet spirits and memories. The personal tone of each poem allows the reader to enter artistic 'morning,' to envision the 'faint vista hovering / after the dark hours, / on the edge of day.' This is hard-won poetry of honest emotion, all the more resonant and sweet in its silences, cacophony, and lyrical loveliness."
—Marilyn Kallet, Knoxville Poet Laureate, Professor Emerita, University of Tennessee
The poems in Excavating Light are inspired by light and shadow, the mysterious turnings of nature and our lives, how we journey through disappointment and loss, and the resonances we gather along the way. As the poet writes about the wrack line she walks, the surrounding world enters—family, neighbors and friends, the textures of other cultures woven in suffering and in joy—animated by the tide, wind, trees, sleet and a blood moon.
Diana Ewell Engel tuned into poetry wholeheartedly, when, during a high school lit class, the teacher read Emily Dickinson’s "There’s a certain Slant of Light." This teacher, Rose Tillman, and UT writing professor, Marilyn Kallet, ignited her passion for American and international contemporary verse. Diana has degrees in literature and library science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and has poems published in diverse literary journals and anthologies. A believer in the transformative power of poetry, she has shared it with many fellow travelers to help them find their voices, their identities. Diana served as editor and head of poetry anthology projects for Writers’ Group of the Triad and Penn-Griffin Middle School resulting in the anthologies fire & chocolate and Sharing the Light. Currently, she co-facilitates the Winston-Salem Writers Poetry Cafe critique group. She lives in High Point, with her husband Clint and brilliant cattle dog mutt, Cowgirl.