Stem of Us

Stem Front Cover

Compelled by instincts of song and prayer, Stem of Us explores poetic choices to open into the world a way of connection, even and especially in the face of injustice and sorrow. These stems offer both common ground and transformative possibilities of what cannot be named, but what can be recognized as a shared dream, what calls us into being on this earth.

Praise for Carter McKenzie’s Stem of Us:

Carter McKenzie chooses a plethora of open forms to perfect her poetic strategies… always multilayered and surprising. An apparent nature poem (“In the Midst of Place, Thoughts on Juneteenth”) or an ekphrastic (“Subject Matter”) are never what they initially appear to be, and hold opposites within—an exquisite tension between transcendence and disquiet, whose subtext is always “…she refuses/ to bury this…”
—Willa Schneberg, recipient of the Oregon Book Award

Stem of Us is a beautiful and important book. For Carter McKenzie, poetry is in and of the world, and it is this world—in all its devastating and brilliant complexity—that she invites into her poems. Whether she is witnessing the distressed cry of a dog that nobody seems to heed or sorrowing over her brother’s suicide; whether she is denouncing acts of violence and cruelty or embracing moments of beauty and possibility; whether she is pondering or probing or exhorting or praising, Carter McKenzie is always generous, reverent, authentic. The poems in Stem of Us are spacious distillations of what language can and cannot hold and what it must.
—Karen McPherson, author of Skein of Light

The book is available now from Amazon.com.

November Return

Pregnant and dark
black bear
in the cold
predawn
orchard

slow moving
through rain,
beneath the backs
of mountains

smelling
and eating
invisible pears
fallen
to the ground—

right instinct
filling itself
in time

shadow upon shadow
without an individual name,
hiding places—
she, these

in the distance

clear my mind
when I cannot
sleep.

CarterMcKenzieAuthorPhotoFall2017_smABOUT CARTER MCKENZIE

Carter McKenzie’s work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including What the River Brings: Oregon River Poems, Canary, Sisyphus, Turtle Island Quarterly, The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times, and the poetry anthology Of Course, I’m a Feminist! Carter is an active member of the Springfield- Eugene Chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). She lives in a small community in Western Oregon’s Middle Fork Willamette watershed region.