After reading Natalie Vestin’sShine a light, the light won’t pass, Kathleen L. Housley wrote that “Natalie Vestin has an inner compass that helps her maintain exquisite balance between science and spirituality, the material and the immaterial. She combines symbiotically her love of astronomy (the creation of stars and galaxies), biology (amino acids), physics (atomic energy), and geology (volcanism) with her love of dance, her compassion for a finch hitting a window, and her own physical pain. Shine a light, the light won’t pass reveals rock-solid knowledge tinctured by longing. These essays deserve—require—a slow, thoughtful reading. They are tidal, powered by the push/pull of the moon”.
Vestin’s seven brief essays work from a basis in scientific understanding of the cosmos, and move toward ways of knowing less iterative, more intuitive: movement, somatic experience, affect. In the end, her writing shows the ways in which all understanding is interwoven with mystery.
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Covers printed on Rives BFK by Foxglove Press in Temple, ME
Inners printed by Alfabet Drukkerij in Ghent, Belgium
Hand-bound by MIEL
Bound with a paper band
Edition of 130, of which 20 to the writer
He had me at the opening line of the opening poem: ‘I have come all this way to see you.’ I wanted to know all his tribulations, all the aching and struggle. And then life and shadows and all our limitations get in the way: it is ‘a clumsy dance.’
Reichard knows how to nail a neat first line. I also loved the opening of ‘Oculus’: ‘To see, she opens her body’. As a woman who writes, and who is acutely aware of how the state of her body so affects her ability to see, as in, write, this image completely resonated with me.
Reichard gives us a stack of items for the librarian—the precious, the impossible and the poignant; a stranded rocket on the launch pad and a stranded conversation: ‘We finally run out of/things to say’; and the beautiful understatement of ‘There’s much to say about everyday life’: all held me as I travelled with the poet ‘through time, fires [and] houses buried.’
Today, Rachel Moritz—whose How Absence is being bound now and is shipping as we bind—writes for us about the process of making these poems and of forming this book, and about motherhood.
A strange imagination
How Absence began as a series of poems written in the first years of my son’s life.
My son began as an idea, he was a process I undertook “to have a baby,” then a product of my body, then he was himself.
“…a strange imagination can do as much as the Heavens can…” –Jane Sharp, midwife
While I was pregnant, I craved language about childbirth beyond the endless online articles or parenting books suddenly entering my world.
I was drawn to this midwifery manual of the late Renaissance, its textural and archaic words: the placenta a cake, the ovaries Seed vessels, the umbilical cord a Navel String. And its central illustration: a flower between the pregnant woman’s legs, her annotated, flayed womb as she stares out at us.
This woman is not the true subject of the illustration, though she contains it: both process (‘near the time of its Birth’) and location (‘the Womb, the Child therein’). I wrote often with this image, drafts of poems that never settled.
When my son was in the world, his presence felt like a nearness submerging me into cycle: sleep and waking, day and another day, being with him and being without him.
My suspension in the nearness of early motherhood (near to him/near to his body) also felt oddly simultaneous with absence:
Absence from self (a former intimacy vanishing instantly with his birth).
Absence from the other half of my son’s biological material (his conception through a donor we’ll know little about until my son turns 18).
Absence/removal from time as an axis I perceived myself moving along with (seemingly) clear direction.
In its place: foreground, blur, repetition.
As my son grew beyond the first early months, time also seemed to warp. It sped up. Physical sensations, moments of image, days, months: everything felt like it was hurtling toward me at breakneck speed. His presence was the new calendar, one that, before, had never felt so unrelenting as well as so swift.
Is one’s sense of time more intimate under the nearness of living with a young child or is it simply that one’s sense of space has shifted? How all things shrink around the perimeter of a person (hood) not your own.
In some sense, what’s transformed most since my son’s birth is my relationship to time + space.
These two locales (what else do we live by?) directly affecting my imaginative life: access, energy, scope, focus.
The poems in How Absence are one set of frames or distillations around shifts in self that continue the longer I’m in motherhood, or, I suppose, it’s in me.