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Swimming the Eel, Poems by Zara Raab
The blending of the personal and the external in the family history of Zara Raab’s Swimming the Eel brings both sweeping and intimate currents of history to life, intertwined.
“With abundant detail and in many voices the poet rounds out family history with sweetness, humor and presence, frequently moving back and forth from one era to another. In this way we see the family lines as they gather along the Eel, and disperse. . . .Zara Raab has long entranced us with glimpses into her ancestral life. Now we have the wonder of it in Swimming the Eel. We are grateful.”–Cleo Griffith
“Swimming the Eel is a moving and impressive work of art. Its family history feels both intimate and mythic in its fresh iteration of a Western American archetype, in this case settlers in a largely off-the-literary-grid corner of Northern California. Zara Raab's writing has a combination of formal coherence and musical fluency unusual in this neck of the redwoods. She writes that ‘the past is real, as present as the present is,’ and proves it in this beautifully sustained sequence of poems.”–Stephen Kessler
“This poetic chronology grips and blesses in a way that no history could, telling the story of the American West through family eyes, beginning with an ‘artless girl who kept a clean house over a green hill,’ who was swept toward her future by life’s inevitable ‘waterfall of loss.’ In Swimming the Eel, the voice of time calls out from parents to children as generations pass, brothers marry, the Civil War rages, Artemis flaunts sex in the barnyard, the Pomos and the Yahi fade, and Billy Gawain dies. Charm and efficacy yield a light touch; yet the words speak of deep longing, written of a bygone life amid the ‘pantaloons of soil along the river rock.’ Generations come and go, yet in the green hills of Mendocino and along the Eel River, the poet quietly continues to sing this ‘hymn to the summer starlight.’”–Cathy Luchetti
“'Who’ll join me...as the winter seance starts, wind rattling the pots?’ Zara Raab’s compelling dream of history, and the painful waking from it, merges inner life with outer world in these exhilarating lyrics of lost lifetimes in an outback corner of Northern California. A brew of wildness and domesticity, awakening the music of yearning and discovery, of landscape, wind, the ‘infidels of light,’ and ‘cargoes of air.’ Its pleasures are many, dislodging linear time, criss-crossing the buffalo clouds, dry arroyos, and haloes of dust with wagons and cars and private Cessnas, the life that ‘at home in Eden, lay in wait for us, there, among the grasses.’”–Beverly Burch
ISBN: 978-1936370443, 116 pages, $20.00