This Week, I Read Catherine Kyle: Shelter in Place

Image Credit: Pawel Nolbert via Unsplash

In her poem, “Communion with Nature,” Catherine Kyle says,  “We will carry the ghosts/of what is lost, make shelters of/our bodies. Become custom jobs; become/living museums, encyclopedic weight.” This is one of many fantastic pieces in her collection of poems, entitled, Shelter in Place.

This is a book which revels in nature and environment. The pieces are situated in the current interplay of technology and its effect on lifestyle. Though there is peace found in nature in these pieces, the collection also hints that what is there now is in danger. With global warming, there may come a time when we have to shelter in place.

A lot of these pieces have a very hygge cozy vibe to them, combined with very witchy ritual elements that I’m a fan of.

In the poem, “Candle and Laptop,” the speaker says,

“Our succulents poised on apartment windowsills/suction the starlight again. Are open as nocturnal/waterlilies, drinking the arid dusk. Are accustomed/to living on little. Have taken root, a set of stubborn/fingers lodged in clay.”  

There’s a comparison drawn here between the succulents, which need very little and can survive in a hostile environment, and the humans, who require self-care and shelter.

“The city is enough with us, has had/its bite today. We swim home, salmon gnawed-on,/gored by seals’ frothy grins. The city is a neon flashing/predatory pulse. Something whose heat we feel/beside us, raising the hair on our arms.”

In a way, though, humans can survive in this hostile environment. They will always find a way. The speaker says,

“Any of our/many screens can conjure facts on such cats, the way/old superstitions equate them with witch words. So/we shelter what we can. We shelter the cat,/her licked whiskers. We bunker in the glow of buttercup/and agate blue. When we extinguish these by breath/or fold the shiny screens closed, we trace our way/by trusting lunar auras in the sky.”

There’s a comingling of technology and mythology, self-care and ritual, all of which creates an original body of work. There’s so much hope in these pieces, while at the same time, it’s underscored by the very real threat of the environmental issues that are currently happening. I highly recommend this book, which is available from Spuyten Duyvil Press.   


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