Stages of Twilight
In the spring of 1986, Raymond Carver chose Stages of Twilight for the King County Arts Publication Award. The manuscript was published by Breitenbush Books of Portland, Oregon, in November.
In its review of the book The Library Journal describes my themes: “Derry writes chiefly of relationships remembered, filtered through time and presented against a backdrop of rural images—carefully constructed scenes in which things in nature become fresh analogies for the ways people behave toward one another. . . .” Almost every poem in the book explores a relationship between the speaker and grandmother, brother, lover, unborn child. Understanding each other, the poems imply, is the only way to save ourselves. When I see my friend Lorna Crozier, she quotes to me from my book: “This is the walled city, family. Within,/all the love and hate a body needs.”
In addition, the poems my passion to care for the wild world around me; people have the responsibility to live well in nature. Painting and its ability to communicate through color and shape also inform the book. Stanley Kunitz calls painting “the sister art” of poetry; it has always played that role in my poems and my teaching. Finally, the theme of human rights, expressed through the metaphor of my love of the German language and its people, has its beginnings here.
Praise for Stages of Twilight:
“Derry’s poems spiral forth from an essential region deep within her, conveying a life and voice which is conscious, tactile, tender and true. A reader is graced to share it.” ─Naomi Shihab Nye
“Derry’s poems are rooted in specifics: the here-and-now of family, nature and memory.” ─Don Fry of The Seattle Times.
“Derry’s language is nearly always heightened yet plain, her project large yet simple: exploration of incidents in the human heart, in the name of survival and perhaps even betterment. Sensitive to both the uncertainties and verities of daily existence, she is constantly open to finding images and metaphors that might help her to capture such bedrock ambiguities.” ─Stephen Corey of The Georgia Review
Cover and frontispiece art are pen and ink drawings by Charlotte Warren of Sequim, Washington.
Hardcover, $8.50; paper, $4.50, available only from the author.
Excerpt from Stages of Twilight
Who can resist the lumber,
coming off the log in a whirr of sawdust,
as if the boards have always been there,
and the saw merely pushes them out,
beam after beam, heavy, white?
It takes two men just to lift one.
The smell of a fresh-sawn hemlock board,
still wet, is acrid, like welcome autumn smoke.
Cut with carbide teeth, a board is velvet,
skin, ready for the hand’s rub.
It takes three blades to cut a log plumb,
a straightness we’ve imagined
since the trees are straight to wind and soil
and the room their roots find.
It takes a lot of nerve to build a house
from a tree that’s stood since before the whiteman,
patiently adding its sixteenth-inch rings.
When the saw hits on just right, there’s screaming.
How can a person love both trees and sawn wood,
a culture bent on beautiful destruction,
taking irreplaceably from the wilderness
and giving a house whose windows are fired at night
with comfort? There’s no question
of balance; we’re winning, revenging ourselves
on a universe we’re not the center of,
nature’s calm drop of a cone into logged soil.
Remember stretching out on the alder
bridging a Soleduck swamp
and staring into the giant hemlocks?
Whole trunks move—vulnerable to the tiniest breeze.
Now you hold a chainsaw up and dip it gently into a log.
I sit high on a section too rotten to saw
and write on the trees I love, this paper
testimony to days in the drug of sunned hemlock,
hills blue with their haze.