...investigations of desires (dangerous) and borders (subject to diffusion and breakdown). And they are boldly pitched above the literal, over which they nonetheless lower their stingers.
“Dignity” is one of the most important connotations of the Latin word “gravitis.” Catherine Strisik in her Insectum Gravitis explores the dignity of not only the world of winged and crawling insects. In these uncanny, metamorphic parables, she also shows us how the infinitely varied dance of love and desire is a fundamental source of the dignity to be found and cherished in you and me and every living thing.
“Do what we can the summer will have its flies,” wrote Emerson. In Insectum Gravitis, Cathy Strisik makes out of those flies and that heat transcendent poetry. A sequence of poems that offers pleasures far deeper than those of science or story, her sly and witty book offers a vision of a relationship: brief, intense, and as complicated as an insect’s compound eyes—which, unlike ours, can see every direction.
Insectum Gravitis is haunted by the missing, by the spaces between, by anticipation and longing, the subtleties of transparency, and the dangers of allowing intimacy into our lives. An intensely human, deeply emotional view weaves through this collection ostensibly focusing on invertebrates. Catherine Strisik’s language is stark, compelling. It resonates with wonder and variety, and inevitably leads us from the immediate to the beyond. This is a gorgeous, powerful collection. It will lift you.
These breathtaking poems bypass the careful brain to speak a purer, distilled language of the body. Sensuous, keening, celebratory, they do more than create a chorus of voices that transform the progress of Parkinson’s Disease into a kind of Greek play, although that would have been achievement enough. Poem by poem, Strisik breaks syntax and remakes it into gestures that startle and invite the reader to linger, and into cadences that reflect emotions too complex to name but are immediately searing. This collection itself is body and breath: It brings us to language by a hidden door we may not have known was there, and in this sense, it is challenging yet trustworthy at every moment.
~Leslie Ullman, Progress on the Subject of Immensity
“Grief swells inside silks,” Strisik writes in her latest collection of poems The Mistress. Indeed, eroticism mingles with deception, tenderness is interrupted by violence, & physical pleasure dissolves into the slow deterioration of the mind brought on by disease, among the other sources. Strisik’s lines—in turns taut, frenetic, & fragmented—surprise over & over, revealing the myriad fissures of language & lives rocked by seduction, equally alluring & toxic. These are daring, & successful because of their daring, poems.
~Alexander Long, Still Life
Eros and Pathos infuse this uncommonly unified collection—a coherent, albeit polysemic, verse narrative—with a linguistic power that educes as much erotic energy and spiritual passion as it presents. Catherine Strisik trusts the profoundly suggestive reach of the poetic—the ongoing reach of the parabolic word—to address the body’s decline and in so doing articulates a vision of the spirit’s recovery.
~Scott Cairns, Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
Just as a mistress steals attention, unsettles a marriage, and relentlessly and invisibly gains power over a spouse, so this “mistress,” Parkinson’s disease, does and more. Like a mistress, the disease transforms both the speaker’s marriage and her psyche. From denial and self-deception, to awareness of betrayal (“I hate her molestation/her grasp on his calf, her/blood pressure—/her peacock pulse”), this collection is astonishing in its psychological truth-telling, masterful in its use of innovative voice and form, and unforgettable in its depiction of the embodied haunting of a disease. As the speaker notes: “Everywhere this/haunt seizes him” and “Now, we’re/always endangered/even here.” The heightening of the couple’s body-bond and sensual engagement (“Kiss me/With your light-blue-god-thirst”) is made exquisitely poignant in relation to the threat of its disappearance. A powerful, memorable collection.
~Joan Houlihan, Ay
Cathy Strisik’s The Mistress articulates from every angle the ongoing devastation and salvaged redemptions of Parkinson’s disease. The afflicted husband, the grieving wife, the disease itself (as mistress), the implicated pesticide, the neurologist, the medicine each have their say in poems written from alternating points of view and distinguished by marked emotional intelligence and fearlessness. At the core of the book is the desire to “speak the unspeakable,” whether it is awe or violence, love’s joy or love’s pain.
~Carol Moldaw, So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems
The keen eye of compassion in each detail, the steady touch of its cadence in each unfolding line.
~Olga Broumas, Rave: Poems
Here is a perfect, clean and delicate (powerful and often terrifying) work of art. In its simplicity lies profound emotion, both beautiful and laden with sadness. These masterful slim poems speak with discipline and exquisite fervor. This is a very moving portrait of a land, its people, and the universal human spirit.
~John Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War