TO DANCE A STONY FIELD
Poems by Naomi Wallace
Naomi Wallace was born in Kentucky, U.S.A. She now divides her time between Iowa City and London. Her poems have appeared widely in leading magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. She won the 1993 United States National Poetry Competition and shared 2nd prize in the 1994 National Poetry Competition in the U.K. Her plays have been produced throughout the United States and in London at the London New Play Festival and by the Bush Theatre and the Finsborough Theatre. To Dance a Stony Field is a first poetry collection.
“Many people turn their backs on the real world, unable to bear other people’s pain. Naomi Wallace has the courage to face the world. She writes with strength, skill and compassion - an honest, singing witness.” - Adrian Mitchell
“There are many different personae singing out in Naomi Wallace’s poetry. This essentially dramatic work goes straight to the emotional core of character and situation. Poetic monologues from voices as diverse as Mary after the Crucifixion, a molested woman in a sweatshop, a man revisiting a wartime transit camp in Holland, a scab in a Meat Strike, a murderer’s ode to his child victim, Hester Prynne (of The Scarlet Letter), the Devil, Judas, terrified soldiers on the eves of Gallipoli or Desert Storm in the Gulf War - all these display the same lyric gift, the same surprising, sensuous, oblique vision as do the (perhaps) more ‘personal’ female, erotic or motherhood poems. It is for the breadth and commitment of her curiosity throughout time, place and history, and her way of expressing this in language both supple and vivid that this book will be celebrated.” - Liz Lochhead
“You should red these poems. Afterwards you will understand other people and America better. You will also understand yourself better. Some of you will meet yourself for the first time.” - Edward Bond
The Devil’s Ode
More radiant than God himself, I was. My wings
were hung with pinecones and the strung ribs
of a calf were my crown. But I fell in love
with a mortal; not to recreate myself but to spy
out love in the tempered flesh, and she was not
afraid of me. Hardly glancing at the manifest
of my wings, she threw me handfuls of corn
from the field where she worked and turned her back.
Not as an angel should behave then, but as a swine,
I got down on all fours and feasted. If I were
patient she would toss me a glance. For this I wept,
over the gutted stalks, the shameless husks, the bodies
of glutinous wasps, swooning to the earth, drunk
on fermenting corn. Only when my shrunken wings
lay rotting in the field did she let me kiss her.
But that was enough. It gave me a power more terrible
than God’s and my heart screeched like a goat
in flames. Because of this, because I knelt
before a mortal, He cast me out, shredded my wings,
set me alight. Burning like a pine forest I fell
through the sky into the earth. Though I am cursed,
I snicker under the dirt. From this place I can
reach up and fondle the dumb, blistered steps
of his mortals, the women and the men who stagger
to earth to die. He can touch only the tops
of their heads that pray, cold, through the brain.
Down here I tend the roots of the corn stalks
that will blast through the crust to the sun.
Through the dirt I kiss the bottoms of their feet,
their very souls, without breaking their strides.
TO DANCE A STONY FIELD
Price £7.95 per copy post free (£5.30 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: ‘Balancing Act’ (1993) by Bruce McLeod.
Publication: SPRING 1995 (64 pages laminated paperback)