A fourth book of poetry by Patricia Clark, Grand Valley poet-in-residence and professor of writing, was released in February from MSU Press. Sunday Rising takes readers on a spiritual journey, while Clark herself ventures out to share her work in Boston, at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference, and in Savannah, at the College English Association conference.
Clark’s newest poetry collection opens with a haunting vision of human forms risen from the underworld, figures who lean together, trying to communicate. The final section of poems questions the past, her heritage, human relationships and the meaning of loss. In between, the poems explore the near worlds of Michigan, as well as the farther worlds of the Pacific Northwest, of The Netherlands and France. Consistent from the first poem to the last is Clark’s intimate relationship with the physical world and her beliefs about what that world can hold for us.
“Poetry helps us to slow down and pay attention to life,” said Clark. “Poetry need not be about a big idea, but rather a very small moment pondered over in great detail.” She says our memory is often elusive as we rush through our days, and it is the silent labor of reflection that gives our lives meaning. “Poetry readings are an excellent gateway to reading poetry. Often a poet will give comments about a poem, sometimes opening the way for listeners to understand poetry better. Plus it’s an aural art.”
While many of her new poems have a spiritual aspect, Clark moves outside the confines of a church and embraces the natural world. There are cracks and fissures shown here, as well as lyric exhalations rising like clouds beyond the named birds, trees and shores. Here is language that expresses her spiritual longing and moments of passion and sorrow.
Clark’s previous books include She Walks Into the Sea, My Father on a Bicycle, and North of Wondering. Her poetry has also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Poetry and Mississippi Review, among many other literary publications. She has also co-edited an anthology of contemporary women writers called Worlds in Our Words, and served as the poet laureate for the City of Grand Rapids from 2005-2007.
Since coming to teach at Grand Valley in 1989, Clark has coordinated many poetry events on campus, including Grand Valley’s annual Poetry Night, which brings award-winning national poets to campus during Fall Arts Celebration.