Garden of Beasts
Most gardens aren’t designed to accommodate beasts, with their rowdy and unpredictable behavior. Think of the tumult that might erupt inside a place meant to offer quiet refuge! But wait, is beauty not fierce and wild? With intensity and playfulness, through a variety of dreamlike settings, this collection takes old stories and focuses on their details as if they were paintings, and in the process continues the ancient and vital process of re-telling the tales we live by.
Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Anita Sullivan is a poet, gardener, translator, birdwatcher, rock art enthusiast and piano tuner, whose NPR broadcasts and writings on music have reached a wide audience. Her book on the philosophy of piano tuning The Seventh Dragon: The Riddle of Equal Temperament won the Western States Book Award in 1986 and was published in a 2nd edition in 2005. She published a poetry chapbook The Middle Window with Traprock Books, Eugene, OR in 2008, and in the same year earned an MFA in poetry from Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington. Her decade-long travels in Greece resulted in a travel book Ikaria: A Love Odyssey on a Greek Island. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Praise for Garden of Beasts
Anita Sullivan’s Garden of Beasts is lyric, intelligent, flamboyant, and wonderfully well-made. Best of all, it contains a rare kind of intuitive courage. Sentences are “cracked open” to reveal “an adoration of mountains/at dusk,” a performance of a Saint-Saens composition transports us to “the beginning of the world, before glass.” In a time when so many books are satisfied with describing a world, Garden of Beasts works to transport us to one we couldn’t otherwise have known.”
Anita Sullivan’s poems are not message so much as music. She magically reveals “How recklessly we live here in western Oregon/amid dark hills that move like mastodons/. . .loping beside the highway with mist astride their backs.” The poet sometimes puzzles, sometimes challenges, and always rewards the reader with striking, original imagery and glimpses into the mysterious reality of the other.
As Anita Sullivan’s lines sing, we awaken to our own shape-shifting, our own evolving, our own stretch towards mysterious chords. At home in her garden or on a Greek isle, this poet knows that “every house is an entire world,” and that the quotidian, revealed in all its power, offers the fertility of many worlds. . . .Composed of crows, of Bach, of loam and seed and sky, Sullivan’s poems create in us “secret noises we’ve never heard.”
Excerpt from Garden of Beasts
And then the horses of Genghis Khan could gallop west no more
because they were running between apricot trees
and would tear their necks on the low branches
would sink to the hocks in those thick, other grasses.
They knelt and let their hides silken in the sun
of villages with five-syllable names
like the one where my mother was born.
Apricots inside her father’s orchards
ripened dark, elliptical, focused
orange that best feeds the violin heart.
And so they say our gypsy music was played
on bows strung from the tails of those ancient horses
who ate the grass beneath the trees, that fed
their bodies, that stained their blood, and
the whole country came to owe the excellent quality
of its sorrow to the elliptical reasoning of the fruit.
From a wren
the size of a blackberry leaf
a song clears—end to end—
acres of forest.