No Starling


Nance Van Winckel

  • Published: 2007
  • Subject Listing: Poetry
  • Bibliographic information: 76 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Pacific Northwest Poetry
  • Contents

The new century peeled me bone bare like a song
inside a warbler - that bird, people,
who knows not to go where the sky's

Over the years, Nance Van Winckel's extraordinarily precise and energetic voice has built upon its strengths. Unpredictable, wry, always provocative, displaying a sure
and startling command of images and ideas, her poems make every gesture of language count. In No Starling, Van Winckel accomplishes what has proven to be so difficult for poets across time: a deeply satisfying balance of the spiritual and political. Although richly peopled with figures from this and parallel worlds - Simone Weil, Verlaine, Nabokov, Eurydice, "the new boys" working in the morgue, and others - No Starling moves beyond a reliance on the dramatic resonance of individual characters. Its vision is deeper, its focus both singular and communal: the self on its journey through the world ("Mouth, mouth: my light / and my exit. Let nothing / block the route"), and our responsibilities as a people for the precarious state of that world.

Nance Van Winckel teaches in the graduate creative writing programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College. She is the author of four books of poetry and three collections of short stories. Her numerous awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, two Washington State Artist Trust Awards, and Poetry Magazine's Friends of Literature Award. After a Spell won the Washington State Governor's Award for Poetry.


My too-sharp lefts kept making the bundle in back
sluice right. I was driving with the dead Nance
in the truck bed. The gas gauge didn't work
so there was an added worry of running
out of juice. Her word. Her word one
windy evening with the carpets
stripped from a floor, which
surprised us as stone - slate
from the quarry we were
headed to now, but Let's first have us
some juice, she'd said, then, barefoot on bare slate.

The truck-bedded Nance, wrapped in her winding sheet,
thuds left, clunks right. I'm sorry about my driving,
sorry about the million lovely pine moths mottled
on my windshield. Thank God, here's the quarry,
and there's the high ledge, where, as a girl long
ago, she'd stepped bravely from the white
towel and stared down. Then she'd held her nose
and leapt out into it - this same cool and radiant air.
I / Doorman
Waking, Working
We Called Goodgye, but She Was Already Gone
Black Stitches, Black Knots
The New Boys Will Never Love You
In the New Boy's In-Basket
All Asides Aside
White Marginalia
RE: The Two New Boys
The Rattled Hymn of the Republic

II / Middle, Nowhere
Before There Was a Road (On the Way to Wilburville)
Middle, Nowhere
Seme and Semaphore
I Am on a Break
Retrograde: Echoes from Earlier Chapters
Passing Through the Shadows of Great Buildings
The Usual
When the Van Broke Down

III /Threshold
White Brides, White Mistresses
Almost an End of Absinthe
Verlaine in Prison
Simone Weil at the Renault Factory (1935)
At Some Point the River Always Veers Away from the Road
The Winter Cow
Our Ladies of Elsewhere
You People

IV / We Fall in Behind
We Fall in Behind
Fuck It
Upriver: Distinctions of Never and Ever
The Ones You Love Are Cold
Let Me Remind You You Are Still Under Oath
I Talk to the Bread, I Chat with the Dough
Breaking Only Little Laws
Indiscriminate Kisses
Hand-Embroidered Mourning Piece for Clara Elisabeth Kriebel, 1779
Bid Me Be the Bird

About the Poet

"No Starling touches upon spiritual and political issues alike, signing aloud in a crystal clear voices that deserves to be heard." -Midwest Book Review