Her Familiars
By Jane Satterfield

Her Familiars, by Jane Satterfield

ISBN: 9781932418460
$17

Jane Satterfield brings an astonishing range of subjects to Her Familiars, handling them with keen intelligence, musical intricacy, and tonal dexterity.  Here, she tells of a child's encounter of tragedy through a poetry recitation, or the life of an exemplary (and little known) woman ceramic artist, or the collapse of human communities through history (concluding, disconcertingly, with the vanishing of bees today).  Jane Satterfield's poems are intimate, graceful, and brilliant, composed around issues of social and political importance.  Reading them, I feel I have made a friend whose company I enjoy and whose insight, wit and commitment I greatly admire.  These are terrific poems. --Kevin Prufer

Ever since I read Shepherdess with an Automatic about a decade ago, I've been a great fan of Jane Satterfield's poetry and prose. Her Familiars (a title glossed from the OED to reach as widely and deeply as possible) is anchored by two superb and ambitious historical sequences -  "Collapse," dealing with the American side of Satterfield's background, and "Clarice Cliff Considers Leaving Edwards Street," dealing with the British side.  Before and between these poems appear shorter lyrics on a range of subjects, sometimes domestic and sometimes glosses on life's weird curiosities, written both in form and free verse, fully achieved in both cases.  Satterfield has a quirky and original angle on the world of her experience.  Our shepherdess still carries an automatic. --John Matthias

 Fascinating and revelatory, Her Familiars explores the culture of war and female experience through a varied and lively mix of forms.  Here we find epistles, refrains, litanies, elegies, and even a poem inspired by the iTunes party shuffle function.  Though her topics are necessary and her intent sincere, Satterfield's voice is invigorated with humor, a sense of play, and an appreciation for the beauty of this world.   Often, historical concerns (17th century witchcraft crusades) and contemporary concerns (high school cliques) intersect and illuminate each other in fascinating ways.  This tension runs throughout--even when we are brought to a street in Baghdad to witness the explosion of  "two bombs, homemade, hidden / in a bird box," we are also brought a world away to a speaker in a coffee shop where "There's grief in the mute loop of CNN flashing on/ the flat screen TV.  Soft chatter, / the barista's contrail of steam.  There's grief, there's cupcakes."  What a terrible, difficult, contradictory world we're living in.  Thank God we have Jane Satterfield's beautifully conceived, beautifully executed book to guide us. --Beth Ann Fennelly

From her familiars by Jane Satterfield


Girl Scouts Visit the FBI

Lights fade on this snow-erased suburban street as our screen flickers with roadside
bombs & body count. News is another stalled front,

a season past its prime.
  The house rattles with gale-force winds & Doppler radar
promises more. In this late hour, wisdom’s

an
X-Files rerun, Tempranillo catching candle-shine in a glass.  The flame leaps—a little
spark, a little shud
der,

a little rising action in Headquarters where Scully calls Mulder, whispers
Is it wise?
But I’m drifting back to the Hoover Building, my own inside shot

to honeycombed halls, rowed desks & ringing phones.
What
badge were we after, riding the Yellowbird bus down Pennsylvania Avenue,

a troop of girls kitted out in jumpers, cable knee socks, & small green berets.
What badge were we after, what wisdom?  Citizenship?  Government? 

We lived on old tobacco land, blissful on suburban streets, tree-lined Glens &
Ways. Choppers stuttered over Saigon. In a year where cookie sales

earned record profit we walked through security, scanned the Ten-Most-Wanted Wall.
 
Mulder knows the truth is out there. Scully, good Girl Scout, questions

every clue.
  She knows how far
the smart girl gets—badge & suit, official blessing, unwitting agent of someone

else’s grand undisclosed plan.
  Cut to Mulder on the shooting range.  What—or who
—emerges next?
 Bullets, a steady

sequence of shots. The human-sized target bends & spins, faceless,
with a red spotted heart. Same spin, same din as I remember it.