Using various poetic forms, this collection unveils the powers of the lyric and narrative, the beauty in ekphrasis and abecedarian. These poems take your hand and lead you through European cities, old-growth forests, hospital stays, and the intimacies of memory. Themes of conservation, existence, ageing, and reciprocity can be found in these lines. The real and imagined are investigated, the natural and clinical worlds unearthed. The taste of a mountain, the texture of air, or tripping over a bone—nothing is too small or ordinary for the poet to notice and revere with unique imagery, alliteration, and rhythm.
Walking in Thomson’s Red Sumac
If I could step into a Thomson painting,
my feet would sink soft into the sponge
of pine cones fallen to forest floor. Drawn first
to bright scarlet, the sumac centres the scene
before my eyes find yellow and the bright white
birch that beckons deeper in the wood.
These should be the tones of summer,
so hot their hue; they heat chill
October hours with their warm flames.
They would burn into memory
against the coming cold, when winter white
will wash every upturned forest face.
Yet here, in this frame of autumn, winter
will not come. I could walk for miles—for months—
inside this wood, the seasons never changing.
My path would never reach the shore—
Canoe Lake always somewhere distant,
and the painter still painting.
Elana Wolff for the Ontario Poetry Society wrote:
"Lyrical read, worth your time. What I Carry With Me is incredible. I don’t know much about poetry but this book by Carol A. Stephen captured my imagination and kept me reading. I loved going along with her as she crafts vivid stories and images. I encourage you to purchase this book and dive into Carol’s world. You will enjoy! I sure did!"
5 out of 5 stars
"Carol A. Stephen’s What I Carry With Me, is a spacious collection of sixty-seven poems presented in seven sections that speak to the poet’s diverse concerns. Among them: Disturbances in the Field, Voices in the Forest, Dark Shadows, music, travel, language itself, art, homage, and metaphysics. The title poem, also the title of the final section, is an homage to American poet Gerald Stern (1925-2022)—whose poems are as ecumenical and international in scope as Stephen’s, and as deeply personal. Both poets stake a claim for their own stories, memories, and legacy. Both address life’s beauties as well as failures, quotidian things as well as oddities and curiosities, in unsentimental, often comical language..."