Taking its title from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s injunction, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string,” Annie Lighthart’s first collection of poems lives up to the complexities of that sound, that difficult music of living. Written with a mature lyricism, these poems weave the thread of song through destruction and doubt, through quiet rooms and resilient hours. When reading Iron String we awaken to our own lives, into a world that is wider, deeper, and more dangerously beautiful than we realized before.
*Selected as an editor’s pick on NewPages for August 2013.
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Annie Lighthart is a writer and teacher in Portland, Oregon. She earned an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught at Boston College, as a poet in the schools, and with many community groups. Her poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Cimarron Review, CALYX, and other publications.
Her website is www.annielighthart.com.
Praise for Iron String
“These poems offer the obvious pleasures of precise observation and lyric awareness. But they offer much more as well: This excellent debut collection shows us how detail and dailyness can be chiseled into a compelling shape by cadence and craft.”
— Eavan Boland
“Annie Lighthart writes purely magical poems – they will rivet and change you, in all good ways.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye
“Nearly every poem in this brilliant debut book ventures into unknown territory, and without posturing or self-dramatization. The authority of the voice, which I trust, comes from the knowledge brought home from these excursions, which are truly original. We often think of originality as a brand new way of seeing something, but it’s actually the opposite. Genuine originality, which this book has in spades, comes from a return to origins, from going back to the source to see it freshly, free of all other responses and words ever attached to it. It requires a willingness to not-know, to be temporarily ignorant, to leave behind one’s bag of tricks. This quality is rare, especially in early work. Iron String is a startling, masterful, surprising collection.”
— Chase Twichell
“In our time of greed and distraction, ‘when the dog who has eaten the moon/howls/when he finds it full again,’ the deep music of the poems of Annie Lighthart comes like balm. As she tempers truth with tenderness, her figurative language, lit from within, has a gracious sufficiency exactly fitted to the need for it: ‘let nothing be wasted, says the eye…’ The next time someone asks me what poetry can do, I will give them this book.
— Eleanor Wilner
“Annie Lighthart’s Iron String is a stunning collection of poetry. In ecopoetical terms it locates the more-than-human in life itself, through self-questioning spells of a dweller who finds the numina in everything. It is a poetry that takes what we call place—the struggle between the stationary and flux—and out of it makes a life, and out of that life imagines the world that watches itself ushered into being.”
— William Olsen
“Iron String bears a title offering its readers a compelling promise—that of hard, beautiful song. And this remarkable first collection keeps that promise, manifesting a scope wide enough, sure enough, a vision deep enough to contain the music created when such a string is plucked, a string that can ‘resound for a year.’ Intensely lyrical, numinously archetypal, Annie Lighthart’s fine poems both posit and prove the power of poetry’s music.”
— Paulann Petersen
Reviews and Interviews
Excerpt from Iron String
THERE WERE HORSES
There were horses in all our days.
An open white page in any book was a lean white horse
looking out, and a swollen door stuttering at night
was the breath and stamp of a horse nearby.
Boys ran like horses
and our hidden eyes in the oak trees
wore their depth of amber.
Even the mountain swung its back low between peaks
and moved into the plain of darkness
like a horse coming home.
Those days we brushed each other’s hair like the manes of horses
and with their kindness gave each other kingly gifts.
We stood skin to skin in the rain. We swept away the gathering flies.