Western States Book Award
by Rebecca Seiferle
The only ghost Ive ever seen
was that of a baby black bear, waiting
for me one night in the kitchen in Salmon, Idaho,
a small green tornado caught in the corner by the stove,
full of pale yellow lights like the tiny polished stones
that flash in the bed of the coldest mountain streams.
All winter, we lived in that rented house, while the landlord,
in the garage, practiced his butchers art, skinning, gutting disassembling
whatever the local hunters brought him and Id seen the cub
hanging outside my window. Flayed of its rich black skin,
reduced to the scaffold of its bones, its overlay of red muscle and white fat,
without claws or snout, pud or tail of bear, it hung in the glare
of the porch light like a human child. So when I went roaming
the silenced house so late at night and was met by that wild presence,
I spoke it until it sighed and vanished into the peeling wall,
and left me, the only child still there, snared in the net of the world.
Bitters is an extended argument with God, a metaphysical meditation written, Rebecca
Seiferle notes, In an uncharacteristic, almost furious, rush of energy. With dark wit
intensity, she explores the geography, mythology, and religious yearnings of the imagination.
Driven to recover what is banished to the marginal and apocryphala saint's bony finger in a
reliquary or maggots thriving in the skin of a kittenSeiferle claims whatever originates in
earth as an emissary of the divine and recognizes the earth is not our mother but a wild
beyond the self.
Reviews of Bitters:
Throughout Bitters, Seiferle maintains a quality of inquiry, philosophic intrigue, and poetic
discovery. She leaps and always lands on her feet, gracefully. What a find to come upon these
stunning poems of this metaphysical poet making extraordinary sense at the edge of the world in
Farmington, New Mexico. Judges comments on Western States Book Award for Poetry from WESTAF
These poems are lyrical, metaphysical meditations that explore mythology, religious yearnings
the earth. With intensity, humor and passion, they wrestle with the divine to create a poetry of
There is nothing distasteful about Rebecca Seiferle's newest poetry collection,
Where the ale known as bitters is dark and strong, the 77 poems in this book are revealing and
soothing. Even in the overtly metaphysical and questioning poem The Argument, there
a ray of hope in human possibilities. It begins clouded in doubt. . . [b]ut The Argument ends by
shining through what one cannot know for sure to illuminate what we all can surely understand. . . In this book, paradise is primarily made of words, not beliefs. Seiferles poetry reflects
line from Adrienne Richs The Dream Lover: Only where there is language is
Seiferle, however, expresses a knowledge of the regenerative power of words at the end of her poem
Bitter Fruit by declaring We will have to find another/language if we want
Bitters is more than just a title for this book. It is its dominant theme, running
several titles of poems (Bitter Herb, Bitter Fruit, Fear Biter,
of Bitters). Other
poems are spiced with references to bitters (a bitter herb, Mary for bitter-root,
herbs are crumpled, a bitter halo in the distant lights).
Bitters are the light in the midnight of reality. . .
Charles Johnson, Home Trib News.
It was the Bard himself who said that the task of the poet is to give imagination “a local
habitation and a name.” And that is precisely what each
poet does, expressing the locality of the self in words. Rebecca
a New Mexico poet whose poetic vision is equally at home in metaphysics
ordinary life. Her new book, Bitters (Copper Canyon, 2001. $14.00)
a fusion of themes. . . Part of what Seiferle uses poetry for is to make the ordinary
to imbue events with a sense of transcendence. . . The poet says of her alchemical process: I
think of writing as a
spiritual practice that is interwoven with existence and life,
from the circumstances and burdens of being. So I find poetry to be
expression of an intersection between my ordinary daily life and the
issues of history and cultural inheritance, the burdens of myth and
religion. And it is this interweaving which rewards her readers
rich perception of her verse.
Miriam Sagan, Santa Fe New Mexican 11/18/01