Walking the Mist    (February 2021)

By Marjorie Stelmach

ISBN: 978-0-912592-87-9

Available at: Amazon | Small Press Distribution


About the author:

Marjorie Stelmach is the author of five previous collections of poems, most recently Falter (Cascade Books). Earlier volumes include, Without Angels (Mayapple), Bent upon Light and A History of Disappearance (both from University of Tampa Press). Her first book, Night Drawings, received the Marianne Moore Prize from Helicon Nine Editions. She was awarded the 2016 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from The Beloit Poetry Journal. Her work has appeared in Arts & Letters, Boulevard, Cave Wall, Florida Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, The Iowa Review, Miramar, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Prairie Schooner and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, among others. 

Praise for Walking the Mist:

“An artist worthy of her art would find a way / to capture this absence.” Thus, Marjorie Stelmach chides herself for failing to quite discover a language equal to the deepest mysteries, death and loss. This piercing collection of poems, this anatomy of grief, plays out on the desolate shores of Ireland, a care center for the elderly, and in the poet’s memory and imagination. It is the simplest and oldest of stories: a daughter mourns her mother’s death. But in facing her anguish so directly, in struggling so courageously to give words and meaning to the unknowable, Stelmach has forged a terrible beauty. I can hardly imagine an artist worthier of her art.

—George Bilgere, author of Blood Pages 

The poems in Marjorie Stelmach’s sixth collection, Walking the Mist resonate with images so perfect, they make me want to stand up and cheer: “twelve hooded crows with slate hairpieces,” “ Twelve black nails driven back to the rocks,” “limestone boulders [that] / sulk in the sun like kneaded bread dough left to rise.”  The main themes are grief and loss: how we live with them, how we survive, but these are not sad poems. Instead, they are words to tell us how to live, how to go on. Stelmach begins with the perfect epigraph from Fernando Pessoa: We take nothing and add nothing; we pass and forget; / and the sun is on time every day.

Many of the poems are about the loneliness of the caregiver. In a brilliant poem about dementia, Stelmach draws links between the sheep in Ireland, where some of these poems are set, as part of the landscape and also as the sheep of the pasture in the 23rd Psalm: “Words are like sheep. They bleat incessantly, / lag and bolt, lose their way.”   “There’s so little time,” Stelmach writes, “everything passing. I, too, / am passing.”  And so am I, and so are you.  But while we’re still here, we can read astonishing poetry like this, marvel and gasp at our sweet, sweet world, and be enriched by these heart-stopping poems.

—Barbara Crooker, author of The Book of Kells and Some Glad Morning.

Marjorie Stelmach is an achingly honest poet of lament—over those who have died, over landscapes that yield silence and peril, and over her mother’s prolonged suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Stelmach’s vision is of a hostile body and world, and who among us can deny that vision’s truth? Yet when her mother’s misremembered speech breaks inherited prayers and hymns into epiphanies uttered through her mind’s gaps, faith decrees itself as bright, and new, and singular. Even in death, a lingering, a hovering companions these poems. It’s not enough, but it’s also not nothing to hold, Stelmach writes, “inside me/ molecules of her final breath.” Each of us, this book brilliantly reveals, breathes in the breath of all who have died, the complete host of humans who have imparted into the air a lasting remnant of themselves. Perhaps we struggle because they did, too. Perhaps we are made of them. For us, and in us, that breath, and these poems, will remain. 

 Katie Ford, author of If You Have to Go

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