The Disappearing Letters

Carol Edelstein

The Disappearing Letters approaches familiar poetic themes—love and loss—with intuitive animation. The poet takes a direct view of the oblique and a slanted look at the obvious, creating a landscape with springs of great joy and also dry places where loss, wistfully remembered, is confronted and transcended. Edelstein is a poet of the first order; she can harness her innate spontaneity to produce finely wrought, imaginative poetry. An elegy to what’s come before us and a celebration of the living, The Disappearing Letters is an instruction manual on how to pay very close attention while daydreaming.

Earth Signs

See — each ant staggers into the nest
with a dream-shaped crumb.

There they go, there they go — the swallows
who were late for school, doing
their extra arithmetic.

Stand here long enough and a dragonfly
will perch on your index finger,
the first note of hundreds.

Hear the plop of a palm-sized stone
hefted into the pond? It is a frog moving head first
toward center, squeezing those legs

that would be wings if water were air.
The earth must be glad: why else
would these great clouds lying low in the grass

seem like the doffed hats of giants leaving a party?
Or very cruel, to make this white violet,
then hide it under a leaf.


Listen to “Don’t Wait Up,” “Eye Chart,” “Charm to Be Read in the Year 3494,” “Votive,” and “After Korean Proverbs,” read by Carol Edelstein:

Listen to “She Answers the Question I Dare Not Ask” and “Love Song on Stilts,” read by Carol Edelstein at Perugia Press’s 20th anniversary celebration at Smith College on November 12, 2016:

“Zeal is dominant and praise a signature of the poetry in The Disappearing Letters. Discovery is the goal of Carol Edelstein’s supple language — a turn of vision in an unexpected direction, an inward twist of clarity, an opening outward of new perspective, a coming together of memory and possibility. The voice of wonder in these poems is infectious.” —Pattiann Rogers
“Readers approaching the end of The Disappearing Letters will come upon this question, ‘Who thrums life into what was plain?’ — and they will know by then that one answer is Carol Edelstein. Exploring dream, daydream, and acute wakefulness, Edelstein connects us with realms that are simultaneously askew and straight on: ‘we make the world as we go round on it, and link // when we can our two tunnels.’ Refusing to go gentle, The Disappearing Letters decries fading and flaunts perseverance: ‘There was no end to us, so we did not stint.’” —Stephen Corey

Author photograph by Robin Barber

Carol Edelstein

Carol Edelstein lives within a mile of where she was born, in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has published fiction, essays, poetry, and the The Disappearing Letters is her second full-length collection. Her first collection is The World Is Round (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 1994), and her third book of poems is Past Repair (Simian Press, 2020). With her husband, Robin Barber, she co-directs Gallery of Readers, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the work of writers in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. With Elizabeth George, she co-edits the magazine of paragraphs, LINEA

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