04 - Empty Room with Light by Ann E Hostetler Jun 26, 2008 7:48:40 GMT 2
Post by shayepoet on Jun 26, 2008 7:48:40 GMT 2
Empty Room with Light
Cover photo by Ursula Schultz Dornberg
In her first full-length collection, Empty Room with Light, Ann
Hostetler draws on her training as a visual artist as she seeks to
articulate moments of illumination in everyday life. The collection is
structured by a series of frames playfully named after different forms of
visual display, such as "Family Album," "Exhibitions," and "En Plein Air."
A rich and varied palette of images—from the severe beauty of her Amish
aunt’s flower garden to the psychedelic swirls on her own painted
toes—both lends Hostetler’s work a distinctive voice and offers readers
many points of connection. Each section of the book illuminates a different
facet of the poet’s journey through life.
Praise for Empty Room with Light:
“Hostetler turns family and its daily routines into poetry high
mass, with all the garments, incense, and sensuality that often accompany
ritual. Here a daughter traces the surface of her mother’s bathwater with
her fingertips; a son in blue nylon shorts and high tops helps iron napkins
that turn to prayer flags. With precise imagery and language Hostetler’s
poems reach into the rush and plenty of family, making luminaries out of
“These poems beautifully enact the passing of family history and ritual
from generation to generation, recording for us the recurrent journeys we
often take between joy and sorrow, and affirming what can stand when all
else falls--the love that ties us to our lives and to each other. Ann
Hostetler has written a strong and moving first book.”
”Hostetler combines her painter's eye with a sensitivity to language
informed by her work as a literary scholar. Her poems are filled with
images of the world and populated with delightfully willful beings caught
in the act of making lives with whatever is at hand. I appreciate the
honest way this work traces the impatient negotiations of a Baby Boomer's
life--admitting its fast food and undone laundry, celebrating family's
small but significant joys, all the while, never relenting her utterance.
In one poem, she says, ‘I want you to know I was there,/ a soul on a
journey.’ And we do. “
Beneath the rosy shade
of a dogwood in fall bloom
I awake, curled in your palm.
Light filters through the single leaf
you hold above me. Together we
examine its mottled surface: you see
the downy, opaque, underside.
I see ribs drawn dark
like spokes of an umbrella
against luminescent flesh,
shielding me from the revelation of your face,
creased valleys on either side
of your mouth, shaded hollows
beneath your lashes,
the liquid glassy surface
of your eyes reflecting a tiny girl-shaped
speck of light.
—First printed in The Aurorean
Reviews for Empty Room with Light:
"Empty Room with Light (DreamSeeker Books, 2002) is Ann Hostetler’s first published volume of poetry. These poems explore her experiences as a child, student, mother, teacher. They are written with a vulnerability that reveals a sensitive and observant character who is listening for the significance and poignancy of the everyday events we often take for granted. Hostetler’s poems are about love for family, for friends, for the colours of life, for the One who created it, and, yes, also for the words that describe these things. I like these poems; I identify with many of her experiences and thus feel affirmation in my own."
--Lori Matties, Sophia, MB Herald: tinyurl.com/5e2dxq
"Ann Hostetler's first collection of poems is divided into five sections: Book I- Impressions; II- Family Gallery; III-Life Studies; IV-Exhibitions; V-En Plein Air. Throughout, it is Hostetler's method to handle the things of the world, to pick them up and notice them, the things which help us to know we live in this world. Her poetic line is rapid, almost breathless, never scripted or overworked. There is a freshness for the reader in what gets notice; there is a vantage point that beckons. There is a racing mind in a busy world. The poems are based in the "real"-the seeing eye turning on itself frequently, recognizing personal limitations, oftentimes self-deprecatory, at times piqued by the guilt of recognition in a life which swarms. Frequently, the poetic voice is simply not up to it, and admits that life is too much with her.
The collection is rich with poems of memory, as are most first collections. Here, poems of memory are turned on Amish ancestors, lyric moments of mother and father-love, poems which honor forgotten female ancestors, clearly a special concern for Hostetler. Especially in the first book, "Impressions," there are childhood and coming-of-age references; in "Easter Coat," the poet's mother celebrates her becoming a woman with the making of a coat from the softest wool ever, in silvery olive, peach and ivory plaid, the sophisticated colors of womanhood. But it is a place the young woman cannot yet inhabit, standing in line in school in her dotted-swiss hand-me-down, longing for spring. That is the consistent voice of these poems: intense longing, often for the ethereal, for escape. One beautiful moment of escape occurs in one of my favorite poems, "Marriage, with Children," which closes with a beautiful image of husband steeling weary wife: "I close my eyes, feel our marriage falling/like a loose, baggy net about us. Then your thumbs press/against my spine./ I ease into your touch,/a moment's elasticity./As your fingers work the muscles/of my back, our life draws taut again,/a web hung rich with glittering complexity,/unimagined in our youthful love."
Most of the poems in this book are glimpses, defining moments of clarification in the hubbub of a professional woman's juggling of family life and professional calling, and they are rife with that tension. Frequently, they are also rife with the self-accusations that know of a different way women once lived (Amish ancestors, quieter women). But they are clear-eyed, aware of the choices made by a contemporary woman, an intellectual, an artist, a writer. And they also document the rewards. Because of the breathless pace of the poems, and because there is so much of the "stuff of life," in this collection, I felt greatly relieved and grateful for some of the quiet poems, the introspective poems with spare line and reference, like "Insomnia" in which the writer's voice reveals "an empty space, a square/of light or air, thin air,/into which for years/I've feared to fall." A stark, compelling image follows: "I am a chocolate rabbit,/ a ceramic doll like the one I chose for my seventh/birthday, her limbs held to her fragile body/ by elastic strings crisscrossed through her vacant core." This powerful image of "woman used up"--the woman who has nothing more to give, is familiar but fresh."
--Raylene Hinz-Penner, Mennonite Life
About the author:
Ann Hostetler is the author of Empty Room with Light and the editor of A
Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Univ. of Iowa Press 2003). She also
served on the Editorial Team for Letters to the World: Poems from the
Wom-po Listserv (Red Hen Press 2008). Her poems have appeared in The
American Scholar, The Cream City Review, The Mid-America Review, and
Mothering, and many other places. She is Professor of English at Goshen
College in Goshen, Indiana, USA.
Goshen College: www.goshen.edu/~anneh/
ISBN 1-931038-10-4, 100 pages, $12.95 US, $18.95 Can.
Publisher: Pandora Press U.S. (previously, Cascadia Publishing House)
Imprint: DreamSeeker Books
Copublisher: Herald Press, Scottdale, PA
November 30, 2002, paper
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Pandora Press: tinyurl.com/5ehewa