Poetry by Sarah Estes.
Winner of the 2014 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize.
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Advance praise for Field Work:
Kwame Dawes writes:
In Field Work Sarah Estes accomplishes that remarkable trick the best poets have mastered: to fully embody and give voice to the notion of life as inconclusive and unsatisfying, and yet, to do so with poetry of doggedly fierce aliveness and beauty. Her physical landscapes ─ Mississippi’s plains, Siberia, Mongolia, and Japan ─ feed what she describes as her attraction to remoteness, and become canvasses on which she paints elegies of loss, memory, and wisdom. In her world it is normal for winter to ‘have it in’ for unsuspecting humans, for divorce and romance to share the same precarious neurosis of passion and despair. She writes of self as part of a wide and complex political and social history, and she does it with consummate and efficient craft. ‘I awake mastered,’ she writes, and yet it is in her ‘mastery of the thing’ that she stirs us to, if only for a moment, feel satisfyingly alive.
Commenting on the manuscript, CPR Managing Editor, Ruth Foley writes:
I’m drawn to its honesty, and to her ability to ground the poems so firmly in place while retaining a sense of lightness (there’s breathing room many of these poems, even as they are simultaneously breathtaking), and especially to her surprising-yet-somehow-inevitable imagery.
See “Ardennes” for an example:
Night, a woolen blanket
of shallow bogs and dense fingered woods.
Belgium flattens to the West
a small rivulet of song.
The Meuse valley was always
a narrow pass to a darker forest,
her slender strangled neck.
the air and bury your rings
the sentries smoke
blotting the smell of latrines.
Soldiers in puddle boots
and the beautiful named guns—
Cupola, Collar bone.
Shelling went one per minute all night.
The face of your mother in the fog
meant it had gone badly.
you were already half dead.
Grandfather and his brother
cock their turtle helmets to one side
a suicidal cigarette at the corner of his mouth.
Two survivors grimace toward a future sky
where one will hang himself
over the mouth of a barn.
No one knows if it was the war
or the plodding walk of smaller horrors
that killed him. The lush acres of dirt,
grief’s wrenched swath of back.
Life of rain and furrowed trenches
the slow groan of a rusting wheelbarrow
rolling the year-heavy ground.
Thanks to AGNI Online, in which journal this poem originally appeared.
About the Author
Sarah Estes is a poet, essayist and science writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, New Scientist, Christian Science Monitor, Agni, Cimarron, Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, The Missouri Review, New Orleans Review, Plume, Salon, Slate, Southern Review and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Hive Bone, was published in 2013 with Finishing Line Press. She was a Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, and has a master’s in religion and culture from Harvard. Sarah has taught poetry and composition at UVA and James Madison University, and has received grants and funding from Bread Loaf, UVA and the National Science Foundation. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.