Pomegranate-Eater’s “radiant host” lives where fecundity meets decay, where the orderly Victorian garden explodes in wild tendrils. The “feast of ingathering” Borsuk spreads before the reader is a harvest at once decadent and cannibalistic: the fruit “explodes overripe, then rots” in our mouths. These rich and densely-layered confections invite us to devour self after self as the text’s shifting speaker builds and rebuilds an identity in language. Through prose poems interrogating the self in the guise of various fruit, epistles obliquely addressing a shadow lover, and dense lexical tapestries whose words seem to point only away from meaning and toward one another, Borsuk lets language speak, directing our gaze at its shimmering surfaces. This book of metamorphoses delights in puns, anagrams, etymologies, and homologies that freight each line with a surfeit of sound and sense. As the “I” of the book slips from speaker to speaker, “shifts a hip,” and draws attention to itself, it also acknowledges its failure to “speak plain.” Rather than attempting to cohere, Borsuk’s speakers acknowledge their own failings, their shame, and their need for a “thicker skin.” When identity arises in relation to others, how does one become self-possessed? these poems ask. And should one?
Pomegranate Eater by Amaranth Borsuk
Amaranth Borsuk's most recent book is As We Know, a collaboration with Andy Fitch. She is the author of Handiwork, and, with Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen. Abra, a collaboration with Kate Durbin forthcoming from 1913 Press, recently received an NEA-sponsored Expanded Artists’ Books grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago and will be issued as an artist’s book with an iPad app created by Ian Hatcher this year. Amaranth is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell, where she also teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics.
"A dazzling, sensual, & brilliantly inventive invitation
to taste what André Gide called, The Fruits of the
Earth--as well as an offering of those more suspect
pomegranate seeds from that place below.
Persephone’s breath animates these exquisite lines,
these wry hymns and provocative psalms of both
profusion and reckoning. Already known as one of
our most compelling poetic marauders in recent
poetry, Amaranth Borsuk proves once again that she
is the poet to watch as we enter this next century of
new poetic mythologies and of radical technologies
as well. Don’t miss this truly amazing book."
—David St. John
Praise for Pomegranate Eater
In Pomegranate Eater, Amaranth Borsuk’s brilliant second collection, we’re forced into a world as dense as the fruit of reference. Language is the myth, transforming quicker than Ovid’s subjects and with more precision than Stein’s subversive prosody. Here, Persephone makes of her perception a cunning field where a lost control is regained through polychromatic violence and brusque
erotics. “Rising rhizomes in the risk garden” rebuke the surface of observation allowing the tongue-blade to cut where “nibs of human language convalesce.” I am honored to experience the control of “…like quoins, I wedge. Like coins, I dazzle.” I’d willingly pay that price and eat seed after seed of these poems.—Phillip B. Williams
Amaranth Borsuk’s Pomegranate-Eater is a verbal feat, an ecstatic, curious, thrilled “feast of ingathering,” where the poet gives voice to the usually mute vegetable world—and pries words open themselves: they are garrulous, festive in Borsuk’s rich discoveries of etymological lineages that echo human connections, emotions. Sink into the gorgeous linguistic play, feast on it, for the mind’s eye and rest your ear to this active text, its pyrotechnic flare for digging out the kinships between words and with sensations (‘milking musk
thistle’). Borsuk recalls the Symbolists, with more urgency in her ever-expanding word families, their rooting and rhizomes, their mutancy and mutability. “Amaranth” hidden in “Colonel Amaranth” makes an appearance, flashing the humor that carries us through the book’s probing of various kinds of survivals, deaths (genetic codes and the language of WW II espionage and persecution are all layers here), for “what we love / is not the rose / but the smell of its decay.” Decay and love are knit. A dervish with words, Borsuk
admits she’s “guest in this opus,” inviting readers to her table, made of quicksilver and bone. Echoing her epigram from Rilke, she proves no pact between earth and abundance. Still every guest in this pantheon of horticultural specimens (the mulberry has its day as well as the quince), mythic figures (Dido among them), epistolary partners (“Ally” from “Allay”; “Urgency” from “Surge”) increase our love in their aftermath. This is a book that amazes with its dexterity, empathy, and guarded hope; it’s sure to heighten your awareness of language as soother and sayer.—Susan McCabe
Excerpts from Pomegranate Eater
SELF PORTRAIT AS RADIANT HOST
Ravenous in pelts of prior selves, I step
out of my vestments
into ravishment. I lay table
for my own
Full-length when most aware,
armed in offering
or pleasure, I could spiral
at any moment,
shift my fruited baldachin skirt.
My guests as much my hostages,
my home as much hospice
this is my favorite role:
I’ll be their server.
They come to be nearer the river,
its alliterative languor,
call me Brookweed, Cripple,
Ghost. They approach
to hear what’s sibilant
in my libant crops.
By what prodigal pedigree
was I rendered so adorned?
It began with a rupture mistaken
for a late-descending
testis. I turned color
from citron to thistle, my skin
forced to live under a bed,
and there I billowed,
never learned to contain
I grew hinge-dark, knew rapture
as the taste of broken
skin. Lean in, I’m not contagious,
It’s bright here
and everything grows.
We’re lit from within
by systems of exchange.
The feast of ingathering
What we love
is not the rose,
but the smell of its decay.
Readings & Events
Open Books, Seattle
Book launch with Sarah Mangold
Downtown LA Hotel, Bar, 5:30pm
Book launch and reading with Kore Press poets
Friday, April 1,
Booksigning, booth #1635 AWP LA
Dates to be announced for Vancouver BC, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts