Every once in a while we encounter a poem that transports us—not to what we can’t imagine, but to what we already know. We recognize a place, a time, an emotion while seeing it in such detail as to have it made new; we know that we are in the hands of a poet who brings to the page not only talent, but also generosity.

Such is the gift that Betty Adcock shares with her readers. She is a poet everyone should know.  “January” shows us why.

 

 January

Dusk and snow this hour
in argument have settled
nothing. Light persists,
and darkness. If a star
shines now, that shine is
swallowed and given back
doubled, grounded bright.
The timid angels flailed
by passing children lift
in a whitening wind
toward night. What plays
beyond the window plays
as water might, all parts
making cold digress.
Beneath iced bush and eave,
the small banked fires of birds
at rest lend absences
to seeming absence. Truth
is, nothing at all is missing.
Wind hisses and one shadow
sways where a window’s lampglow
has added something. The rest
is dark and light together tolled
against the boundary-riven
houses. Against our lives,
the stunning wholeness of the world.
 

From Intervale (Louisiana State University Press), by Betty Adcock. Copyright © 2001 by Betty Adcock.  All rights reserved

adcockportLargely self-educated—she has no degrees—Betty Adcock has studied and written poetry through early marriage, early motherhood, and more than a decade working in the business world. After her first book was published, she held a teaching residency for a semester at Duke University. Other residencies followed, culminating in an ongoing position as Writer in Residence at Meredith College in Raleigh, where she taught until 2006 and twice held the Mary Lynch Johnson Professorship. She has twice been Visiting Distinguished Professor in the North Carolina State University MFA Program. Adcock teaches now in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the oldest and most acclaimed low-residency graduate writing program in the country.

Her work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, including the recent Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems from the Thirty Years of the Pushcart Prize. Adcock has given readings of her work at more than one hundred colleges and universities and at the Library of Congress.