RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 'SOMETHING SOLID TO ANCHOR TO'
I admire Rita Quillen’s ability to write about landscape and family in such lucid and radiant ways. Textural and touching, her words manage to possess and celebrate the universal, to will the reader in. Indeed, Something Solid to Anchor To is nearly palpable in its weight, solid yet dynamic, a “blood rush pulsing and the words” to create a collection both beautiful and memorable.
--William Wright,ed.-The Southern Poetry Anthology
Whether turnips on the table that leave a sting on the tongue, the grittiness of sand everywhere following a disappointing hard-earned vacation, or the dull ache that lingers long after the last word, Rita Sims Quillen not only remembers them all but, more importantly, renders them in sharply etched, haunting lines. These poems are, indeed, something solid to anchor to, a fine and powerful collection.
—Jeff Daniel Marion, author of Father and Letters Home
We are often behind the lens in Rita Sims Quillen’s new poetry collection, Something Solid to Anchor to. A lens watchful and rebellious, imprinted with hardscrabble history, marked by a father who “owned silence/The way the seasons owned the trees.” Quillen turns her searching lens to the daughter’s path, the long and newly dead, the farm wife who “just wanted to be sought after and found”—as we all do in our hunt for faraway meaning and clarity. Quillen’s seeking eye is true in these solidly hammered poems, her vision of what’s present and missing a witness to life’s first and last word.
—Linda Parsons Marion, author of Motherland
NOTE FROM RITA:
I never dreamed when I started submitting my poetry chapbook manuscript Something Solid to Anchor To, that it would be accepted so quickly and go to press at almost the same time as my new novel Hiding Exra, but here we are. The chapbook is mostly poems about my father and childhood. Losing my dad suddenly in 2012 was the most awful experience of my life, and the poems began to come within just a few months. Poetry is my medium of choice for working out dark, complex questions and problems, and it stands to reason that's where the hurt and sadness would direct itself.
But not all the poems are sad tales of loss — there's humor and hope in this book, too. I believe there's something universal and intensely personal at the same time in this work, something that every reader will find meaningful in some way.
Here's a link you can cut and paste into your browser to a wonderful interview on the book with Dr. William Kelley Woolfitt on his poetry blog "Speaking of Marvels."
Spring Meditation of The Mad Farmer’s Wife
For Wendell Berry
Ask and it shall be given-
So farming is a laying up
Of earthly treasures and fat surprises.
Morels amid brown leaf bed,
Brave onions shoving their way into the light,
New pears hanging like joyous tears waiting to fall,
Spring gobbler Kabuki-
silhouettes in the skyline.
These quests are low stress.
But treks to find calves in late winter-
A different matter all together.
She walks beside, then behind
Choosing the path with care
Crunching grey and brown stubble
Under heavy boots, heavy breathing,
Soon he stops, turns his face
To sun, moon, star
Listening for life.
Generations of ancestors
Imprinted this imperative: there is no other purpose
Here, no meaning, except search and find.
The day is ripening, the rising sun
Saffrons the land
And then he stops, turns to her,
His face breaks into a big grin.
He reaches for her, pulls her close.
The line of grey woods ahead yield
Yet another new spring calf
Dancing on new legs, sniffing the air.
The Mad Farmer lifts his hand
A blessing and a greeting.
Something in That Winter Light
I thought of you today
When brown leaves rained from racing clouds
And the sky burned through, fierce blue.
Rushing air hummed and droned
Like an organ bass pedal.
Trees jerked and bowed in amber light.
I placed you among them
A paper doll on a bright page
Just beyond the fence
Letting you lean on your shovel or rake or hoe
And look long and longer
At what you’re missing.
I thought of you today
Your back to me, head down
Walking away to some other place
Where light is all golden.
Just as in life,
You are somewhere else
A slow moving figure in the garden
Parting a mountain meadow far off
Fixing, mending, digging
Salvaging whatever you can.
You never speak in these visions.
You would think I wouldn’t bother
To dream without gifting us
All those missing words.
The wind rushes along, one sound
And syllable, whispering “See.”
I thought of you today.
When brown leaves rained from racing clouds.
People never believe me
When I tell them I recall
Waking in my crib, lying watchful
While my parents dozed.
I slept there until I was two
In front of the window in their bedroom.
I remember watching the sun rise
Amazed, lazy in my warm nest,
Only the sound of breathing,
Blood rush pulsing and the words yes and yes.
Just as now I feel no need
To summon others at the moment
The miraculous occurs,
I couldn’t tell my parents then or later
That I saw God and angels and clouds
That became beliefs, most of all,
That silence was now
A cloak I would inhabit,
Walk around inside
Wearing it as beautiful silk
All my days.