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The Still Position

Poet and playwright Blatner (No Star Shines Sharper) chronicles the last five days of her dying mother's life in a simple, straight-forward, and heartbreakingly poignant collection. The poems are structured as a countdown, grouped by days: "with four days/ to live in, pleasures/ are few." Her poems document the "steepening cheekbones" of her mother's complexion and other depictions of deterioration from "mild alcohol-related dementia" while delving into the complexity of family relationships—Sadie (her mother's caretaker) and her husband Crow play prominent roles along with Blatner's sister, brother and husband. Set in upstate New York, nature serves to show the mind's preoccupation: Blatner writes, "a hawk/ is flying./ and I am thinking:/ it doesn't matter/ that you neglected us/ got drunk at us/ charmed us/ divided us." Blatner's portrayal of grief is so successful—universally and specifically—that at times it's hard to sit with.
-Publishers Weekly


I stare
out your kitchen window
at green-black
mountain swelling
above back yard
fields and orchards.

near the summit’s
stony escarpment
before the vertical scar
cut through trees
for telephone wire,
a hawk
is flying.

and I’m thinking:
it doesn’t matter
that you neglected us
got drunk at us
charmed us
against each other.
we love you terribly
the eye of love’s
ever sharper
now that you lie
in bed in your room
at the end of the hall

we’re bound to you
like that hawk
to her hunger,
we hunt
your love
we circle
we shadow


"Is this what poetry can do—stand at the intersection of time and eternity? Here, at The Still Position, is where we find the poet Barbara Blatner -- singing. These poems are a sorrow and a sweetness--together they make a symphony anyone who is mortal will be touched by."

--Marie Howe, Author of What the Living Do and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

"These are straight-forward and arresting poems, both bold and alluring. I admire them a great deal both for what they dare to attempt and for what they succeed in accomplishing."
--Jane Smiley, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"Not since Mark Doty's work about his lover Wally's death has there been another poem cycle that examines the stages of dying with such fierce love."
--Louise DeSalvo, Author of Writing as a Way of Healing