July Poetry Pick: The Swamp Monster at Home

I admit it. Sometimes, I buy a book by its cover. This was one of those times. I knew nothing about Catherine Carter’s book The Swamp Monster at Home.  In fact, I didn’t know Carter’s poetry at all. But when I stumbled across this cover (along with the great title) while reading the Louisiana State University Press page,  I knew I had to try her work.

Sarah Lindsay, in one of the backcover blurbs, invites the reader into this collection by writing “Welcome to the domain of the swamp monster.”  This domain, it seems, is a world where myth is revised, where folklore becomes reality, where the unusual doesn’t seem so strange.  For instance, in “The Book of Steve” she imagines that Adam was with Steve, and not Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  In “Hook Woman” Carter retells the urban folklore tale about the hookman invading the domain of teenagers  in parked cars.  And in “The Fairy Your Parents Forgot to Ask to the Christening” she takes another look at the dismissed fairies in fairy tales.

My favorite poems, however, are the works where Carter looks closely at the natural world to reveal the unexpected or unusual.  For example, the last poem in her collection, simply titled “Swarm”  depicts a scene where “a thousand/specks came arrowing out of the west.”  Yet, while the narrator waits for catastrophe, she only gets this knowledge: “I didn’t know then that swarming /bees don’t sting, and working bees hardly/sting, and bumblebees let you stroke/their black satin as they drink the blooms.” 

Much like my discovery with Bruce Snider, I was happy to find out that The Swamp Monster at Home is Carter’s second book.  Her first collection of poetry, The Memory of Gills, was the winner of the 2007 Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry.  This collection is now on my Christmas list (It’s not too early to start Christmas lists, is it?)


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