Fetch, Muse

Able Muse Press, November 2021

Review in Seven Days Vermont


In those moments I fumbled in the dark
you were the dog from the Atsugewi tale
bringing back fire cupped in coal-black ears,
lop-tips parrying buffets of rain
while you suffered pain sparks to burrow overnight,
pawing the coals out for me to cook with
once morning stole in. Then you disappear
from the telling, like a fire left to burn down:
the people praise the food and go out hunting.
How still you stood, the bright weave behind your eyes
letting no light escape.

published in One Art

About the Book

Fetch, Muse, Rebecca Starks’s second full-length collection of poetry, is a powerful account of events revolving around adopting, living with, and ultimately giving up a dog. In precisely crafted and moving poems of compassionate care, of sacrifice and inclusion, the accounts are by turns heartwarming and heartrending–how the dog Kismet was integrated into and became an important and beloved member of the family, and ultimately lost, “memory burning [her] into brilliance.” Along the way, understanding deepens of the dog as an individual, of our wilder inclinations, guiding toward a more informed attitude, to warmth given and received. This is a unique collection of longing and introspection, uncovering a closer sense of the life around us, our inner nature, our humanity.” (from the publisher)


Praise for Fetch, Muse

What brims from this elegant collection? A sorrow both compassionate and contemplative, a sorrow wise and deep. Rebecca Starks gives us poems spoken in direct address to her rescued dog named Kismet. “Fetch, Muse,” she says, commanding the dog to “…do the work / of memory, dropping life at my feet.” And Kismet obeys. In mostly subverted, non-traditional sonnets, Starks’s poems retrieve from memory the story of a rescue that is fated to ultimately fail. Rich with allusion, her work–with its wit and insight and music–salvages for us the story of her relationship with a creature whose very name means fate.

Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, author of Understory

Fetch, Muse is a book of real poems with a real subject, a subject which is difficult to tackle successfully, and Rebecca Starks achieves that success. The poems, mostly unrhymed sonnets, muse on her wayward dog and on her family life. The dog is her true muse. There are many great lines I could quote, but here is the beginning line of a typical sonnet: “Fetch, Muse, bring me back what I rejected,” ending with this memorable final line, “your fetch as long as your leash pulls you up.” Powerful.

Greg Delanty, Guggenheim Fellow, author of No More Time

Time Is Always Now

Able Muse Press, November 2019

Rebecca Starks’s Time Is Always Now unfolds against a backdrop of nature, often permeated in unexpected ways with the human dynamics of family, neighborhood, and nation. Her poems convey the urgency within moments of transformation–whether seasonal, as in wilderness and garden; physical, as in the trajectory of youth, aging, and death; or political, as in the challenges of misgovernance and the environmental exigencies of our time. This finalist in the Able Muse Book Award is a finely wrought, thought-provoking collection. (from the publisher)

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Praise for Time is Always Now

“Drawing from sources as wide-ranging as Emily Dickinson, Apocalypse Now, fairy tales, and social media, Rebecca Starks’s Time Is Always Now deftly balances intelligence and pathos, resisting easy dichotomies and judgments. As these fine poems insist, the present is relentless, and we are immersed: ‘No, not out of time; helplessly in it.’ Ours is a country of guns; ours is a ‘middle-aged earth’ in decline—and yet, we are here, witnessing, questioning. I am grateful for Starks’s voice in the present moment, and I’m grateful to have her poems to carry with me into the future, whatever it may bring.”

—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

Rebecca Starks writes with a sense that time can be stopped in a poem, lives suspended and drawn inward, even in the most aimless moments. There’s a wonderful clarity to Time Is Always Now, an electricity that feels bright and wild. It’s to be found in the roadsides and a robin’s “clutch,” in the retina that “registers pain,” in the sky at dusk and the “months of mud.” I greet these poems with so much enthusiasm—these poems that crave, clarify, and propose sublime ways to become refreshed in our most confused times. 

—David Biespiel (from the foreword), author of Republic Cafe

“At one point, Rebecca Starks describes a winter hike, in which she crosses “sociable mouse hops, two feet together” and passes “a squirrel’s scramble at the base of a tree,/ then the bunched landings of a mustelid bound/ from the yawn under one log to another.” Several of her wonderful book’s qualities are evidenced here. If too many poets, in their ignorance, regard nature as a mere repository of metaphor, Starks, like Frost, is both knowledgeable and uncannily accurate about it. (“Yawn” is the perfect word, say, in this passage.) Her sinuous and heavily subordinated syntax is also suggestive of a mind with great range, geographical, thematic, and prosodic, though she can also, as, for instance, in “American Flag,” move by a cunning terseness.” 

—Sydney Lea, author of The Music of What Happens: Lyric and Everyday Life