The Persistence of Longing

Review by Grace Cavalieri


The Persistence of Longing

Terrapin Books, 2016. 96 pages.

Not since Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap has there been such a stellar book of poems written about the end of a marriage. These poems are deeply marked by life and cover the emotional alphabet of betrayal, rejection, hope, despair, with the greatest gift of all — the creativity to survive by writing. This is bright art about a dark time — from the end of a relationship to the beginning of the book, one can only imagine the internal mood music. I know it took Olds 25 years to produce her chronicle; and Knight’s ability to touch another’s life through these poems is a testimony to an artist’s work without deception; and serves to help poetry’s reputation in the world. Every poem is tailored differently. Knight knows her craft and uses clarity to fence in tumult. Each page is a delightful escalation of good writing; and the marvel is that this comes from a poet who knows who she is, through everything, and has the courage to share her gifts of discovery.

The Silence of Women

Finally, the silence of women began to disappear.

It crumbled like old bread.

It evaporated like steam from broccoli.

It rose like the scent of turmeric from kitchens.

It mixed in with birdsong.

It flew over rivers and oceans.

It settled in prairies, it poured out like water

trapped in leaves.

The silence was one language.

All the women on earth spoke it:

They had mastered the tongue.

But it vanished in the sound of vacuum cleaners.

It lifted like smoke from chimneys.

In winter, it covered the snow. It was white, then,

so at first no one noticed. More snow, they thought

longing for spring. When spring came,

the silence burst into cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, apple.

This world of ours! the women cried.

And their stories rushed out like breath

held almost too long —

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