Rebecca Seiferle

by Rebecca Seiferle

The Foundling

The only ghost I’ve ever seen
was that of a baby black bear, waiting

for me one night in the kitchen in Salmon, Idaho,
a small green tornado caught in the corner by the stove,

full of pale yellow lights like the tiny polished stones
that flash in the bed of the coldest mountain streams.

All winter, we lived in that rented house, while the landlord,
in the garage, practiced his butcher’s art, skinning, gutting disassembling

whatever the local hunters brought him — and I’d seen the cub
hanging outside my window. Flayed of its rich black skin,

reduced to the scaffold of its bones, its overlay of red muscle and white fat,
without claws or snout, pud or tail of bear, it hung in the glare

of the porch light like a human child. So when I went roaming
the silenced house so late at night and was met by that wild presence,

I spoke it until it sighed and vanished into the peeling wall,
and left me, the only child still there, snared in the net of the world.

Publisher’s Note:

Bitters is an extended argument with God, a metaphysical meditation written, Rebecca Seiferle notes, “In an uncharacteristic, almost furious, rush of energy.” With dark wit and lyrical intensity, she explores the geography, mythology, and religious yearnings of the imagination. Driven to recover what is banished to the marginal and apocryphal—a saint's bony finger in a reliquary or maggots thriving in the skin of a kitten—Seiferle claims whatever originates in the earth as an emissary of the divine and recognizes “the earth is not our mother but a wild music beyond the self.”

Reviews of Bitters:
“Throughout Bitters, Seiferle maintains a quality of inquiry, philosophic intrigue, and poetic discovery. She leaps and always lands on her feet, gracefully. What a find to come upon these stunning poems of this metaphysical poet making extraordinary sense at the edge of the world in Farmington, New Mexico.” —Judges’ comments on Western States Book Award for Poetry from WESTAF

“These poems are lyrical, metaphysical meditations that explore mythology, religious yearnings and the earth. With intensity, humor and passion, they wrestle with the divine to create a poetry of vision.”

“There is nothing distasteful about Rebecca Seiferle's newest poetry collection, Bitters. Where the ale known as bitters is dark and strong, the 77 poems in this book are revealing and soothing. Even in the overtly metaphysical and questioning poem ‘The Argument,’ there peeks through a ray of hope in human possibilities. It begins clouded in doubt. . . [b]ut ‘The Argument’ ends by shining through what one cannot know for sure to illuminate what we all can surely understand. . . In this book, paradise is primarily made of words, not beliefs. Seiferle’s poetry reflects a line from Adrienne Rich’s ‘The Dream Lover’: ‘Only where there is language is there world.’ Seiferle, however, expresses a knowledge of the regenerative power of words at the end of her poem ‘Bitter Fruit’ by declaring ‘We will have to find another/language if we want another world...’ []‘Bitters’ is more than just a title for this book. It is its dominant theme, running through several titles of poems (‘Bitter Herb,’ ‘Bitter Fruit,’ ‘Fear Biter,’ ‘A Dream of Bitters’). Other poems are spiced with references to bitters (‘a bitter herb,’ ‘Mary for bitter-root,’ ‘as bitter herbs are crumpled,’ ‘a bitter halo in the distant lights’). Bitters are the light in the midnight of reality. . .

—Charles Johnson, Home Trib News.

It was the Bard himself who said that the task of the poet is to give imagination a local habitation and a name. And that is precisely what each poet does, expressing the locality of the self in words. Rebecca Seiferle is a New Mexico poet whose poetic vision is equally at home in metaphysics as in ordinary life. Her new book, Bitters (Copper Canyon, 2001. $14.00) represents a fusion of themes. . .[] Part of what Seiferle uses poetry for is to make the ordinary magical, to imbue events with a sense of transcendence. . .[] The poet says of her alchemical process: ‘I think of writing as a kind of spiritual practice that is interwoven with existence and life, inseparable from the circumstances and burdens of being. So I find poetry to be the expression of an intersection between my ordinary daily life and the larger issues of history and cultural inheritance, the burdens of myth and religion.’ And it is this interweaving which rewards her readers with the rich perception of her verse.

—Miriam Sagan, Santa Fe New Mexican 11/18/01