“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, former 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 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 and founder, Orison Books
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.
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.