Ann Michael says, “There is nothing wonderful here,” but clearly, she’s wrong, as Water-Rites contains many wonders: goldfinches, “lovely in the lost way of beautiful things,” the richness of beans that “lie warm / one inch below the earth; uncounted yet,” an ordinary robin’s egg, a yellow-shafted flicker in black and gold tail feathers. This is the natural world Ann Michael inhabits and explores: her home, her garden, the landscape of eastern Pennsylvania that surrounds it. Michael takes us on a journey through the woods of loss and grief in poems that are as clean and clear as water running over stone. “And what is as beautiful as water?” she writes. These poems are unencumbered by unnecessary wordiness, enhanced by careful word choice and a richly varied vocabulary. “I know what I daily know,” says Ann Michael, and now we, her readers, know these things, too.
~Barbara Crooker, author of Radiance, Line Dance, and More
Ann Michael’s beautiful manuscript Water-Rites deals with cycles of love, loss and the cruelty and beauty found in nature and in humankind. She does not offer a quick rebalancing act, but plumbs the depths of loss and looks carefully at her surroundings to glean further meanings. Her observation is keen and her language reaches to encompass the rhythms inside what she observes, whether in nature, in relationship or struggling alone and in grief... The pace of the manuscript builds and quickens, and we are offered a larger motion into new worlds, literally and figuratively...as she continues to probe and question without sentimentality, she begins to bring in more elements of delight and breeze...The creatures that people her book are also guides, not as easy symbols, but as part of what life at the edge of the wood, and at the edge of the world, offers if observed...Her garden, the plot of earth she tends, is depicted in language that trails her need to understand, witness and enter life on its own terms, while offering a lush and fascinating vocabulary, full of love for what grows...The book becomes host to an awareness that nothing can be avoided—we must live here on earth with or without gods or a god. There is a strong life pulse in this book—a pulse we want to pick up on as she calls us to listen to what’s around us and stay with it.
—Beatrix Gates, author of In the Open
Water-Rites is a meticulous weaving of lyric poems that reinterpret the themes of loss and grief via a language of love and regeneration...the mysteries found in the questions a child asks of her god and the universe, the yearnings found in the questions an adult asks of her body, her mind, and her heart. The tension that carries the profluence of her manuscript is the poignant and sustained negotiation that happens between the need to hold on to what was and the drive to open her arms to the future. This push and pull is breathtakingly captured in a series of love poems to her recently-deceased friend, David Dunn. [In these poems] the reader is given a microcosm of the manuscript as a whole; the living, the dying, the naming, the water—the endless cycles of life. Water-Rites takes its reader on an undulating lyrical journey that begins with witness, moves through understanding, and ends with a reinterpretation of what it means to be alive. The manuscript is a testimony to everything that continues to grow.
—Elena Georgiou, author of Mercy Mercy Me
Ann Michael has found a vast universe in very small places, and every poem is a return to a much-loved landscape. One thinks of William Blake’s “To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a wild Flower.”
—Harry Humes, author of August Evening with Trumpet
(For previous collection, The Capable Heart)
In The Capable Heart, Ann Michael evokes the wild beauty and power of horses that move us deeply and simultaneously call us to rein them in. Layered metaphor and images born of passionate attention describe the richly sensuous and spiritual encounter between women and horses: the caution and the ensuing trust, the strength arising from their closeness. We learn of the discipline between horse and rider that teaches a young daughter “who she is and who she will be,” of a mother’s awakening to the restraints of her own domesticity—whether to follow the unbridled urges of her heart or to don the traces, bearing “with good will the burdens others impose . . . and pull for love.” These are moving, carefully crafted poems that earn our trust and build a world we enter and live in, which is what good poetry does.
—Paul Martin, author of Closing Distances