Comment on this article

Gathering the Harvest
by Mary Jo Balistreri
ISBN: 978-0-944920-84-8
81 pages ~ 58 poems
Price: $18.00 plus $2.00 S&H
Published by: Bellowing Ark Press
To order a signed copy, please send check to:
Mary Jo Balistreri
P.O. Box 25
Genesee Depot, WI 53127

or it can be purchased unsigned from:

Bellowing Ark Press
P.O. Box 55564
Shoreline, WA 98155 

Advance Praise

Elegy and desire infuse these finely-wrought poems by Mary Jo Balistreri, rising through loved
landscapes and the art of Bonnard’s ghostly figures, Hopper’s lonely houses, Audubon’s birds,
the music of Mozart and Bach, as she tells of the loss of parents and grandsons, her own illness
and healing. "I believe in grasshopper plagues, a murder of crows, conversations among the dead
and the living," she writes, and we hear, in the arc of her memory, moving echos of loss and love.
–Robin Chapman, author of Abundance and the eelgrass meadow

In Gathering the Harvest, Balistreri sifts through the net of memory with all its losses–mother,
two grandsons, her own cancer–to find pure gold. Poignant and heartbreaking ("he is six, and not
yet crushed / by the cells collapsing inside him"), these poems steadfastly love this broken world
where "a hawk kites / across the glass table. The gulf stretches out in silk." Throughout, Balistreri
gathers a feast for the senses: "angel hair and roasted garlic, tomato-fresh sauce," "beds of daffodils,
blazingstar, / scarlet poppies,” a Chopin prelude, “its light repetitive A flat, the memory raining /
down into my open hands." O taste and see, dear reader, for there is much to admire in these
courageous poems.
–Barbara Crooker, author of Radiance, Line Dance, and More

"Informed by close observation of the natural world and by art and music, these often haunting poems
dwell 'in the crevice between / longing and loss.' Having lingered in such territory a long time, this
articulate poet becomes our guide as she grapples with the facts of her own narrative. Through palpable
sensitivity and precise language, Balistreri reaches 'for distances not yet touched' and touches them."
–Andrea Hollander Budy, author of House Without a Dreamer, The Other Life, and Woman in the Painting

About the Author:

Mary Jo Balistreri is the author of Joy in the Morning published by Bellowing Ark Press and chapbook,
Best Brothers
, published by Tiger’s Eye Press. She is one of the founding members of Grace River Poets,
an outreach program of poetry for women's shelters, churches, and schools. Her poems have appeared or
are forthcoming in MOBIUS, The Healing Muse, Passager, Tiger’s Eye, Ruminate, Verse Wisconsin,
Quill and Parchment, Crab Creek Review and others. She recently placed first for essay in the Wisconsin
Writers Jade Ring Contest, and is the recipient of a Pushcart Nomination in poetry.

From the Book

Gathering The Harvest
by Mary Jo Balistreri

Up and down the kettles and moraines,
we hike in the unexpected clarity
of an autumn-calm afternoon. This rolling land
left behind by glaciers is damp from days of rain,
but today
it brightens with warmth. Wind ripples
the tall grasses, carries tufts of silky milkweed,
and the vanilla scent of crushed asters.

We picnic on a knoll overlooking the river
that wears its skin like a party dress
aglow with glistening beads, its curves like hips
as it moves sinuously around the bends.
Clusters of berries glisten in the bushes.

A black cloud of starlings passes over,
and I tell the story of Mozart’s pet starling.
How the maestro heard
beautiful music in its whistles and screeches
and added a line to his G Major piano sonata,
a line transposed from the bird’s song.

Hoards of grasshoppers rise in another dark cloud
through the landscape of time. A memory travels
from the South Dakota plains:
fields of ripening wheat, a darkening sky,
the falling locusts. Aunts, uncles, all gathered
in our grandparents home, Whispering Hope
ascending from the wheezing pedals
of the pump organ. And Dad’s sweet tenor,
clear and true above the other voices, all rising
like prayers of propitiation.

Your fingertips move lightly over my face as I linger,
suspended between here and there,
the heartbeats
of all the living and dead, drumming within me.

We look now over the distance we’ve come,
layer upon layer of golden-green hills
airbrushed to ever softer hues in the distance.
We scoop them up into the net of memory,
winding back upon itself, moving forward.

The poem: In the Moon When Lakes Start to Freeze, We Drive to Door County
also in the book, was first published at Quill and Parchment



Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]

© 2001- 2012, Quill & Parchment Productions
All contributions are copyright of the respective authors