The title poem—about a group of schoolchildren illustrating Shelley’s “Ode to a Skylark”—ends with the following assertion: “these are the only / lessons they will ever need to learn: that life / is not artifact, but aperture—a stepping into / and a falling away; that to sing is to rise / from the grave of the body. And still / say less than nothing.”
This idea of the aperture, the gap, the silence that exists between what we want to say and what we actually do say pervades The Curator of Silence. The paradox, of course, is that the creation of art itself makes this gap, as there is always a gulf between the impulse and the gesture, the vision and the poem.
Nutter’s experience of living for two months in the Antarctic, perhaps the greatest silence and solitude possible on earth, is the archetype of silence whose many dimensions she explores in this volume. She considers both literal, obvious silences—death, abandonment, loneliness, the silence into which lost things vanish—and silences of a more mysterious and paradoxical nature: the (mis)perceptions of childhood, the erasures of addiction and brain damage, the isolation of Antarctic explorers, and the seemingly distant, and often fearsome, lives of animals.
In the end, this great silence we batter our hearts against—call it the grave or god or the universe or the intimate silence of the white page—is the silence these poems are singing to and with, not against.
“The Curator of Silence is a wonderful book, both generous and challenging. From the very first page, Jude Nutter asks the reader to join with her in an exploration that curates not only silence but the many varieties of human experience that enliven, threaten, and sometimes deepen that silence. Her poems are imaginative, and their music always feels authentic, as if born from far inside the poem. The voice of the poems speaks from intimacy and demands intimacy from the reader in return. If those poems are sometimes harrowing, they are also redeeming, and leave us strangely renewed. I envy those who have the pleasure of reading her book for the first time.” —Jim Moore, author of Lightning at Dinner: Poems
“These astonishing poems take my breath away with their beauty and deeply held knowledge. Not only are they wedded to the earth as they emerge from the poet’s personal mythology, but—like a shawl thrown over the shoulders—they give comfort as they explore the fragile balance between life and death, gain and loss. Here is a poet who speaks subtle truths; I know I’ll want to return to her poems again and again.” —Judith Minty
“If you buy only one poetry collection this year, don’t miss this book. . . . What a joy to read Jude Nutter’s poems, with their capacious, thrilling range of language and image.” — ForeWord
“Making is what the poet or artist does. But the ‘lessons’ of which [Nutter] speaks in the title poem . . . are: ‘that life/is not artifact, but aperture—a stepping into // and a falling away; that to sing is to rise / from the grave of the body. And still / say less than nothing.’ The greatest subject, paradoxically, is what cannot be said or shown. There is thus a quality of silence about real art that is like nothing else on earth. It was an intimation of this, in verse ambitious to reach into darkness and silence, yet to taste fully of life, that surprised and impressed me in Jude Nutter’s work twenty-five years ago. In her subsequent poetry, culminating in The Curator of Silence, she has learned to speak eloquently of that which cannot be put into words.” — Notre Dame Review
Winner of the 2007 Ernest Sandeen Prize in PoetryWinner of the 2007 Minnesota Book Award for PoetryIncluded in University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries for 2007 by the American Library Association