“What You Hear in the Dark is one of those rare, loving, heartbreaking books that has come together as all the necessary parts of a life come together, in order to help us connect anew. I am grateful for Sonia Gernes’s generosity.” —Gary Gildner, author of Somewhere Geese Are Flying
“This collection of poems by Sonia Gernes develops a striking voice and powerful drive, displays astonishing branchings of the imagination, and manifests the proper double vision of the poet: an outer eye for the personal and immediate and an inner for the most closely-held truths of the community.” —John Engels, author of Recounting the Seasons
What You Hear in the Dark gathers the best of Sonia Gernes’ three previous books of poetry and builds on their themes with three sections of new poems that give lyric voice to the thoughts and questions that surface in the midnight hours: the value of the lives we’ve chosen, time and mortality, the struggles with belief. Like Teilhard de Chardin, Gernes is convinced that we find the universal by going deeply and authentically into the personal, and these poems detail the small human dramas that reveal us to ourselves.
Both the new and the selected poems distill Gernes’ impulse to give voice to the voiceless and to nudge her lyrics toward narrative. She writes of survival and longing on a flat and fertile earth in poems from Brief Lives, of the resiliency and beauty of mid-life women in poems from Women at Forty, of a young woman thrust into teaching at a Minnesota Indian School in 1930, and a pioneer woman undone by Australia’s forbidding terrain in A Breeze Called the Fremantle Doctor. As Miller Williams says of her work, it “has returned poetry to its first purpose [the telling of tales] with grace and wit.”
The new poems confront the metaphysical directly and in a mature voice, searching through quotidian experience for “the ultimate equation / the voice beyond sound / the is beyond our stories of it / the X that equals God.” Whether about her mother’s long descent into Alzheimers or the mystical urges of a nineteenth-century ancestor, these are luminous poems, shot through with delight in the natural world and with Gernes’ hope that “even among / inconstant stars, our world revolves eastward / darkness ever spinning toward the light.”
“Gernes’ love of language is evident in every poem in this collection, including powerful narrative poems from A Breeze Called the Freemantle Doctor (1997) and insightful meditative lyrics on aging and poignant memory-driven poems from other earlier, now out-of-print collections. This volume begins, however, with 25 new poems that display Gernes’ best poetic gifts: thoughtful economy of words, measured reflections, lyrically fluid language, and gently pulsing rhythms. Several of the more heartrending current poems tackle a mother’s Alzheimer’s, a father’s death, and a newfound voice of loneliness that cries but also sings of ‘the force that propels / even the lonely soul / to seek and gain the sky.’ Gernes is a highly accessible and engaging poet who will surely appeal to many types of reader.” — Booklist, May 1, 2006
“_What You Hear in the Dark_ is a masterful collection of songs, of singing words, of pictures, of ideas, of poetry. It will lead you to wondrous places.” — Midwest Book Review, August 2006
Included in University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries for 2007 by the American Library Association