Summary: In her first full-length collection, Empty Room with Light, Ann Hostetler draws on her training as a visual artist as she seeks to articulate moments of illumination in everyday life. The collection is structured by a series of frames playfully named after different forms of visual display, such as "Family Album," "Exhibitions," and "En Plein Air." A rich and varied palette of imagesfrom the severe beauty of her Amish aunts flower garden to the psychedelic swirls on her own painted toesboth lends Hostetlers work a distinctive voice and offers readers many points of connection. Each section of the book illuminates a different facet of the poets journey through life.
Hostetler turns family and its daily routines into
poetry high mass, with all the garments, incense, and
sensuality that often accompany ritual. Here a daughter
traces the surface of her mothers bathwater with
her fingertips; a son in blue nylon shorts and high tops
helps iron napkins that turn to prayer flags. With
precise imagery and language Hostetlers poems reach
into the rush and plenty of family, making luminaries out
These poems beautifully enact the
passing of family history and ritual from generation to
generation, recording for us the recurrent journeys we
often take between joy and sorrow, and affirming what can
stand when all else falls--the love that ties us to our
lives and to each other. Ann Hostetler has written a
strong and moving first book.
Hostetler combines her painter's
eye with a sensitivity to language informed by her work
as a literary scholar. Her poems are filled with images
of the world and populated with delightfully willful
beings caught in the act of making lives with whatever is
at hand. I appreciate the honest way this work traces the
impatient negotiations of a Baby Boomer's life--admitting
its fast food and undone laundry, celebrating family's
small but significant joys, all the while, never
relenting her utterance. In one poem, she says, I
want you to know I was there,/ a soul on a journey.
And we do.
Market: Anyone who loves poetry that combines careful crafting with accessibility and warmth.
Shelving: Poetry; Anabaptist-Mennonite literature. BISAC: Poetry; RTM: 640 Poetry
The Author: Ann Hostetler, Goshen, Indiana, is editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Univ. of Iowa Press). Her poems and essays have appeared in many journals and magazines. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Goshen College, where she is Associate Professor of English. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University School of Milwaukee and received an award from the Wisconsin Art Board.
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