Carrie Etter’s Divining for Starters

Carrie Etter is an American poet resident in England since 2001. Previously she lived in Normal, Illinois (until age 19) and southern California (from age 19 to 32). In the UK, her poems have appeared in, amongst others, New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry Review, PN Review, Shearsman, Stand and TLS, while in the US her poems have appeared in magazines such as Aufgabe, Columbia, Court Green, The Iowa Review, The New Republic, Seneca Review. Her first collection, The Tethers, was published by Seren in June 2009, and her second, Divining for Starters, containing more experimental work, was published by Shearsman Books in February 2011. She is also the author of two recent chapbooks: Yet (Leafe Press, 2008) and The Son (Oystercatcher Press, 2009). She is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing for Bath Spa University and has been a tutor for The Poetry School since 2005.

In 1999, living in southern California, Carrie Etter began a series of poems focusing on our cultural obsession with creating beginnings and origins—a new day, a new chapter, a fresh start—called ‘Divining for Starters’. Twelve years and a move to England later, here are the best poems from that work in progress. They join poems exploring the environment, the erotic, politics, and selfhood. Employing a poetics of consciousness in an array of forms, Divining for Starters ranges widely with poems at once rigorous and delicate.
“Carrie Etter catches the drift and pushes it lightly into her courses. Lilting now, her courses swerve between the reaches of the American mid-West and the claggy ruts of England, and their erotics are those of skin and fold, of elegant runs and breaks. Carrie Etter’s poems give the feel of pleasure; they take unpredictable turns. When all about would be stipulated, Divining for Starters points heedfully to the possible.”
– John Wilkinson
“Carrie Etter’s wonderful new book, Divining for Starters graphs a crop of new forms, swerving from blanks to bliss. Taking the long view of time, Etter writes poems that can at once be a species of call and response (erotics of language), a particulate trace of how one writes, a ‘True Story’, a physics of animals eating, or a vigil for stillness. She tunes into some kind of latinate downhome radio, or maps the milky way, post-pastoral in its graphology.
Memory is here, (‘fireweed for acres’) as are breathing trees, fields across the world—always with an immediacy—a sense that poems are appearing right before our eyes as we eagerly approach ‘the entrancing right margin'”.

– Lee Ann Brown
McLean County Highway 39
tar shrugs goes to dirt
gravel’s slow crunch over
winter with no hill for
frost to the horizon
green hectares rising into
Illinois’ no blonde endeavour
but for the corn tassels dangling
covert silk threads
cycle up dirt-dust’s brown haze
flattening thought a prairie
the only height for miles
a grove its doe

sweat and cornstalks taller than
pushed through the close
click into speed sticking hairs
peel the nape free

all exhale the green expanse
cicadas’ two notes sunset
the red eye pink strata
push an unwavering line
without thought three miles out
an idle porch swing
shrug or flattening not silence
but nothing heard in
soybeans crouch along even as
horizon at my back
cools toward streetlamps and cement
glide in the last
from Divining for Starters (Shearsman Books, 2011).
Order Divining for Starters.
Visit Carrie’s blog.
Order Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets,
edited by Carrie Etter (Shearsman Books, 2010).

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