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  • The Bird Catcher
  • Written by Marie Ponsot
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307554703
  • Our Price: $15.99
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The Bird Catcher

Written by Marie PonsotAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Marie Ponsot


List Price: $15.99


On Sale: October 30, 2013
Pages: 104 | ISBN: 978-0-307-55470-3
Published by : Knopf Knopf
The Bird Catcher Cover

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In 1998, Marie Ponsot was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, confirming the praise that has been bestowed on her by critics and peers--among them Eavan Boland and Carolyn Kizer (who are quoted on the back of the book jacket) and Amy Clampitt, who had this to say of Ponsot's last book: "She is marvelously attuned to the visual and to the audible. She is no less precisely a geographer of the interior life, above all the experience of being a woman."

From the Trade Paperback edition.


From Part One
("Saturday's Child Must Work for a Living.")

"I'm moving from Grief Street.
Taxes are high here
though the mortgage's cheap.

The house is well built.
With stuff to protect, that
mattered to me,
the security.

These things that I mind,
you know, aren't mine.
I mind minding them.
They weigh on my mind.

I don't mind them well.
I haven't got the knack
of kindly minding.
I say Take them back
but you never do.

When I throw them out
it may frighten you
and maybe me too.

it will empty me
too emptily

and keep me here
asleep, at sea
under the guilt quilt,
under the you tree."


Evening falls. Someone's playing a dulcimer
Northampton-style, on the porch out back.
Its voice touches and parts the air of summer,

as if it swam to time us down a river
where we dive and leave a single track
as evening falls. Someone's playing a dulcimer

that lets us wash our mix of dreams together.
Delicate, tacit, we engage in our act;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

When we disentangle you are not with her
I am not with him. Redress calls for tact.
Evening falls. Someone's playing a dulcimer

still. A small breeze rises and the leaves stir
as uneasy as we, while the woods go black;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer

and lets darkness enter us; our strings go slack
though the player keeps up his plangent attack.
Evening falls. Someone's playing a dulcimer;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

From Part Two

I am rich I am poor. Time is all I own.
I spend or hoard it for experience.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

Thrift is a venomous error, then, a stone
named bread or cash to support the pretense
that I'm rich. I am poor; time is all I own . . .

though I hold to memory: how spent time shone
as you approached, and the light loomed immense.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known,

though scars fade. I have memory on loan
while it evaporates; though it be dense
& I am rich, I am poor. Time is all I own

to sustain me--the moonlit skeleton
that holds my whole life in moving suspense.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

Ownership's brief, random, a suite of events.
If the past is long the future's short. Since
I am rich I am poor. Time is all I own.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

From Part Three
(illuminated MS, Trinity College, Dublin)

Saints in the Book of Dimma
deserve their double-rainbow eyes
for seeing form & structure,
skin & skeleton, both
at once. Great
lovers of instruction,
mouths empty, they tip
their earlobes forward
the better to lock in
the learning
inviting it as it enters and is intimate
with their diamond-cut holy
double-bolted ears.

I look to the next page where
having taken as their text
a wordshape so precipitous
it makes crystals of their tears

they divine the structuring
nature of genesis

& their eyes irradiate
on their own full
of fear hearing the meaning
of shooting stars.


Jacobean savage, hurt while she slept,
words hide the healing secret her life kept.

Her first raw love-letters stay housed with her
all her life. They are from her grandmother.

In dream or in terror her father's mother,
cross-dressed as a plump impresario, beams.

A thread trembles. She falls back drugged with sleep.
The spinner backs away to doze, replete.

Where are you? silence I'm leaving fear
I'll fall outside the sky You can't lose, dear.

As its skin is stroked the iris opens
to pleasure in whatever weather happens.

Where are you? Here love here. Rapt. I teach
the body of joy no body may impeach.

In the same old fear-dream, new breasts cold,
she buds (age 90) in grandma's buttonhole.

Hark to the measurer: "Bad-Good. Once-Now."
Liar! the once she loves her in is now.

Her tongue forks from her gum the last remaining
crumb of burnt-cork mustache. She swallows the

From Part Four

What I have in mind is the last wilderness.

I sweat to learn its heights of sun, scrub, ants,
its gashes full of shadows and odd plants,
as inch by inch it yields to my hard press.

And the way behind me changes as I advance.
If interdependence shapes the biomass,
though I plot my next step by pure chance
I can't go wrong. Even willful deviance
connects me to all the rest. The changing past
includes and can't excerpt me. Memory grants
just the nothing it knows, & my distress
drives me toward the imagined truths I stalk,
those savages. Warned by their haunting talk,
their gestures, I guess they mean no. Or yes.

From the Hardcover edition.
Marie Ponsot

About Marie Ponsot

Marie Ponsot - The Bird Catcher
Marie Ponsot's first book of poems was True Minds (1956); later books are Admit Impediment (1981) and The Green Dark (1988). She is a native New Yorker who has enjoyed teaching at Queens College, Beijing United University, the Poetry Center of the YMHA, New York University, and Columbia University. Among her awards are an NEA Creative Writing grant, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, and the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association. Ponsot's most recent collection, The Bird Catcher, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1998.


"The poems reveal the moral drama enacted just beneath the surface of the natural world. Ponsot attends to elegant forms without losing sight of what they are there to express."
--The New Yorker

From the Hardcover edition.

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