Slate Roof Press

THEN & AGAIN by Catherine Stearns

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ISBN: 978-1-64255-798-5

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Sunday Drives

Sonnet for the Vanishing Bees

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The poems in Then & Again thread the act of remembering and its attendant questions (“why else love what we love?”) with meditations on the present made possible by the past.

The language of memory—personal, intimate, and local— expands outwardly until the land itself remembers, history remembers, and ultimately all are a source for remaking.

From “Questions of Home”

He stepped down from the rear axle,
jelly legs shaking, engulfed
by the humidity of late afternoon

when the turning-over of the engine
and the shushing of the radiator
dissolved into the almighty

buzzing of August: mosquitoes,
deerflies, grasshoppers, cicadas.
Ground juniper crunching underfoot.

Every day in the same place,
the blue shadow of a red barn door,
he listened, dependably amazed.

A fragment from Sappho introduces Catherine Stearns’ beautiful new collection, Then & Again: “…but I say / that whatever one loves is.” It’s an apt epigraph for poems that traffic in the mystery of what it is to abide among the living and the vanished. There’s spareness here, wisdom, a keen ear, and no sugarcoating. She names what we lose, and gives the dead wings—which of course is that second life to which Sappho alludes.

—Andrea Cohen, author of Unfathoming

In these passionate, wary meditations, Catherine Stearns is constantly aware that the self is mostly “afloat, / alone,” yet determined to find sharable truths that help us keep the self’s selvage from unraveling. Her lines always feel deeply chosen. They pierce the silences between persons with a fine needle.

—Mark Halliday, author of Thresherphobe

Catherine Stearns’s new poetry collection, “Then & Again,’’ recently won the Northfield, Mass.-based Slate Roof Press chapbook contest. Stearns, who lives in south Natick and is writer-in-residence at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, writes with an understated elegance. Her lines mix the accumulation of the everyday — “beans, new potatoes, thyme,” a green canoe on the river, concrete where geodes get cracked — with higher states, the glowing flares of memory, and all kinds of passage. There is good nature here: a tree is “bearded with a cloud of honeybees”; and all the hard k’s in “with a flick/of her wrist, she broke/the chicken’s neck” speak to the sound of exactly what’s happening. The collection traffics in the mysteries, the questions that rise and can only get answered with approximations, intuitions, shadows: “Why else remember what we do,/ Why else love what we love?”

Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

Kate Stearns' poem "Willow Shining Yellow" won the Heartwood Literary Magazine 2017 broadside contest.


Catherine (Kate) Stearns is the author of The Transparency of Skin (New Rivers Press), a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards, and a chapbook Then & Again (Slate Roof Press). She has received grants and awards from the Iowa Arts Council, The Dana Award, the Loft-McKnight Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Recent poems may be found in New Ohio Review, The Yale Review, CALYX and among other journals, and she has also appeared in Salamander, North American Review, Poetry Daily and American Life in Poetry. Her work has been anthologized in The House on Via Gambito: A Collection of Writing by American Women Abroad, and elsewhere. A long-time teacher of writing and literature, she lives with her husband, a film director and cinematographer, in South Natick, MA.