In poems at once profound and accessible, Nadia Colburn finds splendor and astonishment in a natural world—and a human world—that is deeply troubled yet still majestically beautiful. Both elegy and celebration, I Say the Sky addresses some of the most challenging aspects of human existence, from childhood trauma to environmental devastation, and discovers, in unexpected and clear-sighted ways, wisdom, wonder, and peace.
Colburn's brilliant second book charts a journey to meet the self. From girlhood to parenthood, loss to discovery, in poems that sing, the book explores how meaning is made. Claiming the female voice from silence, the poems find their grounding in the body and achieve rootedness and hope.
I Say the Sky is a meditative and ultimately inspiring book that will be savored by seasoned readers as well as those new to poetry.
Section 1 I Think It Is Such A Beautiful Upflying Smaller Even than Last Week The End of History Adulthood 4am Section 2 The Physical World Anxiety What We Are Taught Section 3 Memory And the Small Body Catalog of Beautiful Girls Stone Girl Sleeping Beauty Rage Know Knowing Reading to My Daughter Section 4 On My 43rd Birthday Summer Evening Hands Teach Me On the Shortest Day of the Year March Imaginary World My Throat Outside the Sparrows are Awake Section 5 Happiness 6pm Invocation Section 6 When Death Comes August Arrival Onion Today Like Yesterday Amid So Much Suffering, Do I Dare Be Happy? Midwinter Power May I Greet You Rain Pours off the Eaves of the House 12am You Postscript Acknowledgements
Nadia Colburn is the author of The High Shelf, and her poetry and prose have appeared in more than eighty publications, including the New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Spirituality & Health, Lion's Roar, and the Yale Review. She holds a PhD in English from Columbia University and is the founder of Align Your Story Writing School, which brings traditional literary and creative writing studies together with mindfulness, embodied practices, and social and environmental engagement. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two children. Find her at nadiacolburn.com, where she offers meditations and free resources for writers.
From the opening poem and on through this glorious book, Nadia Colburn strikes the difficult balance between celebrating the splendor of the world we inhabit and acknowledging the grief and devastation that none of us can escape. As much a book of love songs as a book of elegies, I Say the Sky is a heart opening and mind sharpening collection.
~Camille T. Dungy, author of Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden
Nadia Colburn's book of poems, I Say the Sky, describes a world both realistic and beautiful. Colburn writes clear and accessible lines that ring of thought amid action; of a mind and body charged to recognize and speak of more things than they knew possible outside of the self but from a self. Can the self be a thing, albeit a beautiful thing, that grows and does not simply strive or perfect? I am struck by how much these poems surprised me and led me to think and re-think, not with an end in mind, but with a world in mind. It's a heartening and strengthening collection, not sentimental in the least, which still manages, as some say of good poetry, "to help us live our lives." I Say the Sky will be a book read toward a meditative, calming effect, in which gratitude, sorrow, and surprise are interwoven, as they surely must be in actual readers' lives. I am grateful for this work and for the gift of these poems.
~Lisa Williams, author of Gazelle in the House and University of Kentucky New Poetry and Prose series editor
Nadia Colburn's book I Say the Sky is made of timely and urgent questions. "What is missing? In the house of my life." With skillful metacognition Colburn approaches the inexpressible, explores ephemerality, trauma, ecological devastation, and how everything connects to the quotidian. These poems are wonderfully awake to our unspeakable lives. She writes: "I want so badly to live sometimes I forget / that I am alive." In this collection Colburn couples gravity with gratitude and creates a bright infusion of healing and regeneration.
~Laynie Browne author of Translation of the Lilies Back into Lists
In I Say the Sky, the poet sees our world with its obvious need of repair and our inability to agree on the name of that repair. In that space she goes after the crystalline beauty of delivering the lyric from inside the human heart as it presses its rhythm against the rhythm of our world, naming the precious things only a poet who values the present moment can know. What a wonderful collection Colburn has wrought.
~Afaa M. Weaver Kingsley Tufts Award Winner and author of A Fire in the Hills
The poems in I Say the Sky are both a hymn to what's lost and a hymnal for how to carry on. "We must do something," Nadia Colburn writes, and that writing is part of the something––as is the cataloguing both of diminishment and plenty. "Teach me to pray anywhere," she says, guiding us to look for transcendence not only in "the cardinals singing at first dawn,/but also in the concrete parking lot/ of the Everett Mall."
~Andrea Cohen Author of The Sorrow Apartments
I Say the Sky distills ordinary passing moments of a world made striking, made memorable. But as the poet disperses such moments into the poems, that world is made strange, made unsayable. Whatever has been named vanishes into something else; whatever has been exiled returns on the next horizon: next line, next verse, next poem. In Colburn's poetics, a pinpoint of memory foreshadows an unshakable sense of dislocation, the strangeness of inhabiting a body and a world in which we can never be just one thing. All the while the ineffable, even the unbearable, runs to meet joy. Reading these poems, certain load-bearing words—stones, hands, a voice, the sky, to name a few—orchestrate a controlled music that surprises us and sends us back to read them again, and again. What more could one ask of poetry?
~Annie G. Rogers, Professor of Psychology and author of The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma
Nadia Colburn has written a marvelous book of poetry that will appeal to poetry lovers everywhere. These poems speak to the human condition and its transitions and transformations, making meaning of life's difficulties and showing us how to turn them into celebrations. I recommend their imagery, beauty, and powerful metaphors to everyone.
~Lewis Mehls Madrona, M.D. author of Coyote Medicine
Colburn connects words to earth, body to family, and family to nature. Here, language is sacred; uttering a word, composing a line, writing a stanza is a prayer of joy even if the context is loss; even loss can be an occasion to be grateful. Colburn has given poetry a breath that revives it, that urges others to see deeper and reclaim their humanity.
~Jimmy Santiago Baca author of A Place to Stand
The tender, fierce poems that populate I Say Sky are poems that vow to be present: 'This is not a poem about escape / The great transition is not an escape / but a turn in which we meet the self / we may not want to meet.' These great transitions are momentous—birth and death—but they also exist in hours of quotidian caregiving that hum with meaning. Cutting carrots, reading a book aloud to a child, planting seeds, and even sitting in silent stillness demand the body's attention. The permeable, powerful female body, the (un)sung hero of this book, knows the generosity of speech, of gesture, of touch, of saying in all its bodily forms. In an act of communion with the world, I Say Sky 'translates the spruce forest of [the] heart,' for all whose ears are open to hear.
~Sasha Steensen, author of Everything Awake
These are sharply-focused lyric meditations that memorably dramatize the simplicity and anguished complexity of the world and the heart that fully inhabits it.
~Gregory Orr, author of The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write and Poetry as Survival
Colburn's fluid style lends itself well to an ambitious work that handles the most personal violations and miracles of the individual body alongside the broadest, most universal themes of the present moment....A haunting, memorable, and highly enjoyable read.