Reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Elizabeth Kate Switaj
Throughout the The Blue Den, Stephanie Norgate emphasizes change and impermanence, but this impermanence never becomes instability. The accompanying sense of interrelatedness and the careful observation that becomes empathy extended even to inanimate objects do not redeem impermanence but, rather, prevent it from becoming the sort of uncertainty that requires redemption.
The repetition continues for two more lines before being interrupted with a line beginning “where.” The refrain of “no more” is then taken up again throughout the poem—not always at the beginning of lines. Even repetition changes.
Within these shifting poems, what remains consistent is the sense of connection and interdependence between all elements of the world, along with the poet’s close awareness of each of these elements. “Racton Voices” connects “tower to air,” “ivy to tower,” and “tower to boy.” “Variations on a Plain Hem” links travelers to the people who made their clothes:
DNA again appears as connection in “Recovery”: “She forgot herself that day, marveling at the way / she shared the DNA of the sap with the snapping jaws / of the caterpillar whose lace work she would discard.”
And it is for this caring and awareness, or creation, of connection to stand against the shifting world that we value stories, as does Alfred in “The Old Traders”: “. . . This is the real gift, Alfred thinks / as his scribe writes it down, this story will go on / forever now, the ways of the heathen traders.” It is for what she preserves, in the middle of its changing and while foregrounding that various process of change, that Stephanie Norgate’s work in creating The Blue Den most deserves to be praised. She gives us more than a carefully preserved moment, even as the moment persists.