Main Street Rag, 2019
...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.
The Mistress, 3: A Taos Press 2016
Winner of NM/AZ Book Award
in Poetry 2017
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, author of 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, author of Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
Thousand- Cricket Song,
Plain View Press , 2010, 2016
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
TUOL SLENG PRISON
Please say each skull has a voice
and an appetite. When I press
my ear to their jaws, crab
shells and dried rice drop out.
Then their smells rise to me:
lemon grass, coriander,
mint leaves. Now empty
their sustenance. Disquieted
their once envied salts
and palm sugar. Please say
each skull has a voice. What can I do
with you, my sound, their tongues’ undressing.
Previously Published in Southwest Literary Center Anthology, 2006
The famous Khmer artist has placed his palm
on a murderer’s upper back near the neck, has pushed him
toward the painting on the prison museum’s wall.
Outside the perimeter the mother is mute on her knees.
Her hands cradle a beautiful fatigue
as if she had just remembered why:
a bayonet blade held upright
to catch an infant as it spins through the air.
The shade shades the body this evening
in Phnom Penh.
He cleans his brushes alone each day
in the medicinal turpentine, wipes
his palette clean, and becomes silent.
The painting is his settlement with humiliation.
You can hear the crickets’ trill in the banyans.
You can hear the whole evening is crying louder.
Previously Published in Fogged Clarity, 2009