Hannah Dow’s debut poetry collection, Rosarium, is a series of beautiful interrogations. In precise, luminous language, Dow engages the mysteries of faith as a catalyst for meditations on the contradictory human condition—our knot of body and spirit. These poems engage the inexplicable, attempting to articulate the tension between doubt and a longing for certainty, between belief in the potency of language and acceptance of its failures. Yet these lyrics never evaporate into abstraction. They pulse with the particular. Postcards that read as prayers (spoken without hope of response) lead us around the corporeal world through vastly different landscapes—from Mississippi, to California, to Europe, to the Middle East—showing how place shapes us, how the mind cannot escape the body. In contemplating transcendence through the mundane, these poems enact a kind of transubstantiation, as in the slim, vast poem that begins the book’s questioning, “What is the Body”:
if not a nest—
indiscernible like a plover’s
shallow hole in sand
lined with shell,
untouchable like a woodpecker’s
mine in a tree’s soft patch.
If not a verb, a being, the way
a pregnant woman
who arranges her home
in the weeks before delivery
is said to be nesting.
How it gathers
everything to itself—
history, windows, warmth.
If not a hive, the bee’s boundless
enter and egress,
then a mountain
thought to be a mountain:
what the magma won’t miss
when it finally erupts.
72 pp., 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
ISBN 978-1-946724-09-0 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-946724-12-0 (e-book)
PRAISE FOR ROSARIUM
These unplumbable poems, filled with myth and the sacred and partaking in the everyday . . . , will have you returning again and again. —Hannah VanderHart, EcoTheo Review
“Like postcards, poems aim to be evocative and efficient. Hannah Dow blends both modes.” —David Roderick, San Francisco Chronicle
Powerful . . . fantastically sharp . . . spiritual. —Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
These ambitious poems enlarge the nature and definition of what body is, how it vines with other bodies, how in its most diffusive and intuitive states it searches for elemental things, deeply and invisibly spilling itself like water into the roots of the world to make of it a mystical garden, a place of ethereal blossoming. —Gregory Djanikian
Hannah Dow’s poems speak with a voice both post-Victorian and stunningly current, their governing intelligence vibrantly at large. —Rebecca Morgan Frank, author of The Spokes of Venus
To read these poems is to be enthralled—caught up in doubtful ritual where cultivation is a matter of trustful necessity, and a deconstructed divinity presides. Above all, it is to be robed in rich and frightening scents, in aboriginal beauty. —Angela Ball
Lit from the Basement podcast on Hannah Dow’s poem “What is the Body.”