By Maryann Corbett
Maryann Corbett’s second full-length collection, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, draws on profound experience of deep winter in the lived environment, while keeping alive faith that the thaw will come and bring with it the bloom of “uncountable rows of petals.” The themes of this finalist for the 2011 Able Muse Book Award range from the quotidian to the metaphysical. Corbett’s keen eye brings to focus uncommon detail. Her masterful technical repertoire spans received forms, metrical inventiveness, and free verse. This is poetry that amply rewards the reader with its boundless imagination, insight and visionary delight.
The crafted poems in Maryann Corbett’s new book are vibrant. She is a newborn Robert Frost, with a wicked eye for contemporary life. Each poem surprises. Read her poems and feel the howling snow, the mud, and the jubilance of the first warm fertile spring days.
What makes Maryann Corbett such a rare, excellent writer must be her talent for weaving together various artistic impulses, so that her poems often sound both traditional and brand new, both humorous and serious, both worldly-wise and, as John Keats once put it, “capable of being in uncertainties.” [She] remains a poet of the first order, and her poems are cause for gratitude, and deep enjoyment.
—Peter Campion (from the foreword)
Corbett is as comfortable and affecting within the tight confines of the Old English alliterative meter (“Cold Case”) and the Sapphic stanza (“Paint Store”) as she is with her supple blank verse and terza rima. Yet never does her rigorous craft interfere with the thoughtful, insightful content of these poems. A stunning collection, from one of America’s most gifted contemporary poets.
—Marilyn L. Taylor
Do not dismiss this collection as “domestic poetry,” “women’s verse.” Though grounded in seasonal rhythms and familiar settings, it is as vigorous, as reflective, as important as any man’s. Sharply visual, skillfully and cleverly crafted, her poems draw out essences, “concentrated” and persisting. “Beauty changes us,/ calling up wonder from our deepest selves/ to its right place.”
—Catharine Savage Brosman
These masterful poems announce themselves as winter pieces, and indeed they are so full of sleet and snow that readers may wish to dress warmly. But Corbett’s winter, a season when “dull forms come in the mail” and we eat “tasteless, stone-hard, gassed tomatoes,” is always lushly haunted by the other seasons, the way a house in one of her poems is fronted by a “three-season porch.” Corbett is one of the best-kept secrets of American poetry, and this is one of the best new collections I’ve read in years.
Maryann Corbett grew up in McLean, Virginia. She holds a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota and is the author of Breath Control (David Robert Books, 2012), and the chapbooks Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House) and Dissonance (Scienter Press). Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in River Styx, Atlanta Review, Rattle e-issues, The Evansville Review, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Mezzo Cammin, Linebreak, Subtropics, and others. Her poems have have won the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and works for the Minnesota Legislature. She is married to John Corbett, a teacher of statistics and mathematics, and they have two grown children.
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