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Northern Oracle

In her poem, Border Lines, Kirsten Dierking asks, “How much will I miss, closing my eyes?”  Reading her new book, Northern Oracle, I felt in the presence of an American poet whose eyes, mind, and heart seem
wide open.  I am most struck by her quality of attention - the range of subjects in the world that she notes and makes new with her unerring language is remarkable.  Will the color blue ever be quite the same again, will snow? Will trees, or water, dogs or sorrow ever be the same, now that Dierking has made her calm, indelible images?  Every moment of peace, of ordinary bounty, each reflection on luck and one’s small place in the world feels recovered from some larger space that has its danger, it darkness.  When the poet notes the radiant world, rescued out of a world of war, suffering, claimed by her good eyes, and her wisdom, we know we are the fortunate ones, to be seeing our world through her beautiful poems.

  Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems


Kirsten Dierking’s poems often focus on the small things, the unnoticed natural world around her, “the unknowable swimmers” in the water beneath the canoe, or the realization of the “glorious spirit” inside a wild flower. It is this seeing that gives her poems their joy. But it is the unflinching realization that “you love things that can’t help leaving” and that, “you can’t stop/ yourself becoming/ all the white,/ expressionless snow “ that gives the poems their strength.
Louis Jenkins, author of North of the Cities

Kirsten Dierking traces her ancestry not just to Finland but to the Sami, the only indigenous population currently in the European Union.  That
connection gives her as poet a special sensitivity to place, both landscape and home--koti in Finnish.  And her reverence for physical environment is matched by her reverence for language.  The result is a poetry that shines with careful observation, including observation of an inner life engaged with and reflective of its surroundings.  She speaks of an “ache to
extract / meaning from vastness,” and as readers we see that ache turn to the pleasure of recognition and discovery.  As the Daphne she writes of metamorphosed into a tree, Dierking transforms herself, by the power of her poems, into natural scenes and elements, like fish with their “transient bones.”  When she asks what spirit lives inside the wildflower, we know that the best answer is herself.  “July in the Garden” is emblemmatic of her cornucopian work, which records a struggle to resist the distractions
of the future, a recurring motif, and focus instead on present abundance.  Given that tension between present and future, which represents loss of the present, a prevailing tone throughout Northern Oracle is the elegiac.  (Just as her interest in home recalls the Auden of Around the House, her frequent recourse to questions--“how did I get here // holding my sandals, /walking barefoot /over the snow”--recalls Neruda of The Book of Questions.  And those two poets suggest her own range between her present moment and her deep ancestral past.  She ranges impressively also between peace and war: in the face of war-mongering politicians who turn language into “frozen lakes,” she translates language into her vision of a peaceable kingdom in “Living With Animals.”)  Like a prayer of gratitude, her final poem humbly calls her life “a lucky star” she has built “at random” and “by mistake.”  This book is neither random nor a mistake, as its craft and art everywhere make
clear, but it certainly is the reader’s lucky star.   --Philip Dacey, author of The New York Postcard Sonnets







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