The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

One of our greatest poets, Brigit Pegeen Kelly died last year, which as death often does, sent me back to the writer’s work. Though all her books are gems, The Orchard (American Poets Continuum, 2004), for me, stands supreme for the delicate dance it performs on the high wire between the conscious and the unconscious mind, its language and imagery opening, always opening for us that dark “river of blood” that leads deep into the beauty and terror of being alive. “I saw the dog in a dream,” she says in the title poem, and the dog becomes a horse, then a dog again, then a man, and ultimately the dreamer herself, reminding us, as she says in yet another poem, “words can even destroy in their saying the very things for which they stand.” —Peter Grandbois