Tether by Kirsten Dierking

Spout Press

Why do we read? To remember? To escape? To keep ourselves company? Because we communicate with one another through text?

There is something practiced, even choreographed
about measuring out a distance from things

that hurt too much. Today we covered Equiano,
the middle passage, the slave trade. Afterwards,

I could see in their faces, they had not yet learned
to slip smoothly past their terrible emotions

as if they were acquaintances they need not stop
to greet that day

writes Kirsten Dierking in Tether, her third book of poems, released last year from Spout Press.

Dierking's first two books, One Red Eye from Holy Cow! Press and Northern Oracle from Spout Press, were published in 2001 and 2007, respectively. One Red Eye chronicles a violent assault and the author's recovery from it; Northern Oracle is a more meditative reflection on oak tress, the migration of geese, the smell of the earth in an abandoned barn, and a cerebral post-9/11 dream about a plane crash.

In Tether, Dierking shows us a sensitivity toward the nonhuman world that appeared in Northern Oracle, and a keen ability to construct beauty from trauma, as she began to do in One Red Eye. Her writing invites thought about the line between description and opinion or interpretation; fishing scenes alive in imagery give way to quiet introspection. She writes her readers into a world with a seamless relationship between the non-human and the human, where an egret mourns the loss of a person and time loses meaning next to an impenetrable mountain.

A white egret
flies across

the blue channel
with a fluid,

sweep of wings,

it’s something
much less

than comfort—

The beauty of Dierking’s poetry lies in her ability to construct tenderness from hardship and in her tendency to make life’s minutiae grand. In the final poem of the collection, “In Early Evening”, she writes

around the lake

assents to silence.
All birds

agreed to hush

lending a keen ear to a phenomenon as simple as the absence of sound. In Tether’s title poem, Dierking connects the notion of attachment to home for humans to birds and dogs to a boat, asking us to consider what it is that anchors us in space.

We call out
to migrating birds

to dogs lost
deep in the woods

please come back,
and even those

parted from us
a long time

will find
some little way

to return

Kirsten Dierking teaches Humanities at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and received the National Education Association's Excellence in the Academy Award for the Art of Teaching in 2011. She wrote Tether with the help of a 2010 McKnight Artist Fellowship.

- Lauren Raheja