The Circle of Totems (poems)
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988
Hardcover: 101 pages ISBN: 0-8229-3774-3
Paperback: 101 pages ISBN: 0-8229-5518-0
Currently out of print. The paperback is available from Open Books, a Poem Emporium.
Or you may contact me. I have a few new first edition hardbacks and would be pleased to autograph one for you: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE CIRCLE OF TOTEMS
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
Moving from the heat of the American Southwest to the chill of Arctic glaciers, this work presents an interior geography between extremes. The poems evolve as if the occupants of a landscape even of works of art have taken a look around before evoking the muse. A strong narrative carries many of these poems as when the laborer "swears violently/because too much,/how he loves/her, is too much" and mood is courageously evoked through repetition of a single word. But most striking are the poems that are mythic in their effort to name: the qualities of October snow, "Kiernan's jovial yank," Fernandez with eyes like ermine leaping at cardinals.
Peggy Shumaker's The Circle of Totems isn't merely reflections on travel, it lives for what the Aleutian people of Alaska call movement, meaning passage made on a horizontal and vertical plane at once. We have cherished this kind of poetry—I am thinking of what Miss Bishop called the magic ubiquitous. This new book is simply wonderful.
The Circle of Totems is filled by small miracles of flight, through geographies both of land and of heart. These are works of absolute endurance which will themselves endure, as the poem says, 'through the lightless season.'
FROM THE BOOK
Where Mountains Have No Names
Moving water melts the glacier
from the inside out. We listen,
trace its widening along the flatland.
A yearling moose strips new bark
off low-hanging birch, thrashes
and stomps knee-deep in the stream.
Vast, bountiful, unforgiving—
the ways of water's being.