From the microcosmic wilderness of an overgrown back yard to the cool, glassed-in exhibits in a natural history museum, Swallow swoops and darts, tangling the lines we draw between the wild and the cultivated. In her debut collection, Miranda Field explores a world composed equally of shadow and substance, filled not just with beauty but also with a kind of savage experience. But Swallow is more than a crisscrossing of boundaries. It is an imperative, a dare: Go ahead, do as Eve did; let hunger take you wherever it will.
According to James Longenbach, these poems are "too beautifully made to idealize freedom, too much in love with vicissitude to idealize beauty. Read these poems, enter them, and be hungry forever."
About the Author
Miranda Field was born and raised in London. A winner of the Discovery/The Nation Award and a teaching fellow at the 2002 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, she holds an MFA in poetry from Vermont College. She lives in New York City and teaches writing programs at New York University and Barnard College.
Read an Excerpt
At the Edge of the Garden, a Tattooed Spider
The rosebush blooms extravagantly all around her: Her roses, her lightwires. The sun almost works
the wires, but sun’s and rain’s collision at the equinox Tres this: the spider’s sense is she’s alone, a woman in a window
up-tipping slowly her thimbleful of sound, her held note: C on the cliff’s edge of the tempered scale. Now rain begins
to strum the web and make intected music-of-breaking-things, a song the sun burns up. But there isn’t the expected
rainbow, there’s a stranger time trapped in the trees. Beginning-evening and departing-day peel away—
will this resolve full viable, this hour between? The woman holds her note, the web shudders, the spider waits:
not air, not rain on her ladder’s rungs.
An always-climbing caller, always calling something far-off closer.
The house beneath its sheath of roiled light shimmers, a kind of bride. Almond trees in front brocade the sky, air veils the doors and windows: The lot runs out from under us, a rained-on painting, river of space. Under the Tlm of heat the facade is a kind of cover, coaxing and dissembling. It draws us in and closes, and the contents run amok: Ladders melt, stair rails cling red hot and twisted to a wall. The rooms we want to enter disappear, the way to them a turning vine, impossible to climb, but towering up and down, blistering. Identities shift—families of foxes under the beds, wolves in the attic, a cat’s cries turning human: Feed me, Tll me with reprieve. A lifelike baby-doll mimics a baby left behind, and the Treman falls for her, he gives the life she asks for, Txed imploring arms extended from the crib. Small hands strike matches. Fevers ty out, furies ty out from the place of gestation, of origin.
Like the white silk-satin of Taste not of the tree, which is a furled bud in the wood that framed the house, a locked thing longing for a key.
Copyright © 2002 by Miranda Field. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Carol Muske-Dukes ix
1 Hortus Conclusus 3 Soloist 4 Then As September Fields of Wheat & Straw Take Fire 5 Subway 6 Crime Scenes 8 Field Hare 9 Thread of the Screw 10 Museum of Natural History 11 Tumultuous Stillness 12 Citronella 14 Miraculous Image 15
2 HouseTre 19 We Lie Like Four Spoons in a Drawer 20 Pear Tree 21 As the Crow Flies, So Will It Fall 22 At the Edge of the Garden, a Tattooed Spider 23 Phrenological 24 Estate 25 Childhood’s House 26 The Parties 27 Jack’s Lake 28 Anaglypta 29 Cock Robin 30 At Ravenscroft 31
3 Bright Ardor 35 L’Atlante 36 The Betrothal 37
Birthmark 38 Passerine 39 Boy Pouring Water 41 Bestial 42 The Lost Head 44 Red Wing 46 The Lacemaker 49 Affliction Is a Marvel of Divine Technique 50 Wedding Night 53