Physical Words & Imagined Ones

Kerry Sherin Wright

Introduction to a reading given by Kate Northrop as part of the Local Spotlight Series held at the Kelly Writers House, 9 April 2003

I first heard Kate Northrop at the Philadelphia Poetry Festival last fall. She read only a few poems, just one short set of the daylong medley, or melee, but her work made a deep impression, creating an unusually intimate and intriguing space even in that gigantic auditorium. Now that I have read Kate's first book, Back Through Interruption, which won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize in 2001, I am even more entranced by her work, with its exquisite sense of timing and its stubborn, exacting intelligence. I like all of the poems in the book, and especially the landscapes and narratives. The landscape poems typically start with a setting of scene then slide into meditation, revealing places that are both rooted in the material world and essentially interior, simultaneously vivid and ready to vanish. The poems that relate stories-some of them also landscape poems-give the book the shape almost of a novel, as the reader comes to know the poet as a character who finds herself committing passions she can't quite put a name to, then apologizing for having become other than she was. From "Aaron Jacobsen":

I don't know what to name it, the action
which is there but escapes always
through the underbrush, threads deep
into the landscape.

From "Late Aubade & Explanation:"

Remember, I never wanted
to be alive, to have
an outline. Better, I knew, to slip

unheld, an opening into mist.

What I like most about the poems in Back Through Interruption is the way that, through precision of diction, line break, and visual register, they conjure both palpably physical worlds and even more appealing, imagined ones. It is the poet's trick to articulate both appearance and disappearance, to chart the rough edges of declaration, to catch passion as it slips through and past us, and Northrop is a master at all of this.

Kate is an assistant professor of English/Creative Writing at West Chester University. In addition to the Wick prize, she is the recipient of awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Greater Philadelphia Council Alliance, and the Academy of American Poets. Please welcome Kate Northrop.