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About this poet

On August 20, 1950, Chase Twichell was born in New Haven, Connecticut. She received a bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1973 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1976.

Her books of poetry include Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), Dog Language (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), The Snow Watcher (Ontario Review Press, 1998), The Ghost of Eden (Ontario Review Press, 1995), Perdido (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1991), The Odds (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), and Northern Spy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981).

From 1976 to 1984 she worked at Pennyroyal Press, and from 1986 to 1988 she coedited the Alabama Poetry Series, published by University of Alabama Press. She also coedited The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach with Robin Behn (HarperCollins, 1992).

She has won awards from the Artists Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has taught at Princeton University, Goddard College, Warren Wilson College, the University of Alabama, and Hampshire College. In 1999 Twichell founded Ausable Press.

She lives in Keene, New York, with her husband, the novelist Russell Banks.

The Blade of Nostalgia

Chase Twichell, 1950
When fed into the crude, imaginary
machine we call the memory,

the brain's hard pictures
slide into the suggestive
waters of the counterfeit.

They come out glamorous and simplified,

even the violent ones,
even the ones that are snapshots of fear.

Maybe those costumed,
clung-to fragments are the first wedge

nostalgia drives into our dreaming.

Maybe our dreams are corrupted
right from the start: the weight

of apples in the blossoms overhead.

Even the two thin reddish dogs
nosing down the aisles of crippled trees,
digging in the weak shade

thrown by the first flowerers,
snuffle in the blackened leaves
for the scent of a dead year.

Childhood, first love, first loss of love--

the saying of their names
brings an ache to the teeth
like that of tears withheld.

What must happen now 
is that the small funerals
celebrated in the left-behind life

for their black exotica, their high relief,

their candles and withered wreaths,
must be allowed to pass through
into the sleeping world,

there to be preserved and honored
in the fullness and color of their forms,

their past lives their coffins.

Goodbye then to all innocent surprise
at mortality's panache,
and goodbye to the children fallen

ahead of me into the slow whirlpool
I conceal within myself, my death, 

into its snow-froth and the green-black
muscle of its persuasion.

The spirits of children
must look like the spirits of animals,
though in the adult human

the vacancy left by the child
probably darkens the surviving form.

The apples drop their blossom-shadows 
onto the still-brown grass.
Old selves, this is partly for you,

there at the edge of the woods
like a troop of boy soldiers.

You can go on living with the blade
of nostalgia in your hearts forever,
my pale darlings. It changes nothing.

Don't you recognize me? I admit 
I too am almost invisible now, almost.

Like everything else, I take on 
light and color from outside myself,
but it is old light, old paint.

The first shadows are supple ones,
school of gray glimpses, insubstantial.

In children, the quality of darkness
changes inside the sleeping mouth,

and the ghost of child-grime--
that infinite smudge of no color--

blows off into the afterlife.

From Perdido by Chase Twichell. Copyright © 1991 by Chase Twichell. Published by Farrar, Straus & Girioux. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

From Perdido by Chase Twichell. Copyright © 1991 by Chase Twichell. Published by Farrar, Straus & Girioux. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Chase Twichell

Chase Twichell

Born on August 20, 1950, Chase Twichell is the author of several books of poetry including Northern Spy.

by this poet

poem
Don't tell me we're not like plants,
sending out a shoot when we need to,
or spikes, poisonous oils, or flowers.

Come to me but only when I say,
that's how plants announce

the rules of propagation.
Even children know this. You can
see them imitating all the moves

with their bright plastic toys.
So that
poem
A kid said you could chew road tar
if you got it before it cooled,
black globule with a just-forming skin.
He said it was better than cigarettes.
He said he had a taste for it.

On the same road, a squirrel
was doing the Watusi to free itself
from its crushed hindquarters.
A man on a bicycle stomped on
poem

The clouds’ disintegrating script
spells out the word squander.

Tree shadows lie down in the field.
Clipped to a grass blade’s underside,

a crisp green grasshopper
weighs down the tip,

swaying between birth and death.
I’ll think of him as we clink

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