By Rebecca Starks
Fetch, Muse is Rebecca Starks's second full-length collection, with precisely crafted, moving poems that are by turns heartwarming and heartrending. Starks presents a powerful account of the integration of a dog with behavioral issues into a family. Along the way, with “memory burning [her] into brilliance,” understanding deepens of the dog Kismet as an individual, of human beings' wilder inclinations, and of the nature of warmth given and received. This is a unique collection of longing and introspection, uncovering a closer sense of the life around us, our inner nature, our humanity.
This book shows that the range of feelings that goes into taking on and then giving up a dog is as deep and wide an emotional swath as any we experience as people, which is to say non-dogs. The insights, confusions, misgivings, wary moments, and entangled joys are all here along with a steady self-scrutiny. We forget, we let go, but we don’t forget the deep tie between dogs and humans and how crucial yet fraught that tie is. Fetch, Muse offers poetry of a very high order to apprehend matters that are basic to our flawed, yearning humanity.
— Baron Wormser, Maine Poet Laureate Emeritus, author of Tom o’ Vietnam
What brims from this elegant collection? A sorrow both compassionate and contemplative, a sorrow wise and deep. Here, Rebecca Starks gives us poems spoken in direct address to her rescued dog named Kismet. “Fetch, Muse,” she says, commanding the dog to “. . . do the work / of memory, dropping life at my feet . . .” And Kismet obeys. In mostly subverted, non-traditional sonnets, Starks’s poems retrieve from memory the story of a rescue that is fated to ultimately fail. Rich with allusion, her work—with its wit and insight and music—salvages for us the story of her relationship with a creature whose very name means fate.
— Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, author of Understory
Fetch, Muse is a book of real poems with a real subject, a subject which is difficult to tackle successfully, and Rebecca Starks achieves that success. The poems, mostly unrhymned sonnets, muse on her wayward dog and on her family life. The dog is her true muse. There are many great lines I could quote, but here is the beginning line of a typical sonnet “Fetch, Muse, bring me back what I rejected,” and ends with this memorable final line, “your fetch as long as your leash pulls you up.” Powerful.
— Greg Delanty, Guggenheim Fellow, author of No More Time
Rebecca Starks grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and earned a BA in English from Yale University and a PhD in English from Stanford University. She works as a freelance editor and workshop leader. Her first book of poems, Time Is Always Now, was a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Baltimore Review, Ocean State Review, Slice Literary, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Winner of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor and past winner of Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Prize, she is the founding editor-in-chief of Mud Season Review and is a board member of Sundog Poetry Center. She lives with her family and two adopted dogs in a log cabin in the woods of Richmond, Vermont.
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