Like Atlas holding up the world, these poems elevate patterns of all kinds with an attentiveness that transforms.In language that is quiet yet forthright, Katrina Vandenberg’s poems capture the way events reverberate and repeat across time and place, as in one poem that links the image of the poet’s sister, pausing in her work as housekeeper, with the contours of a maid in a Vermeer painting and a woman just “made over” on that day’s episode of Oprah.
Like a literal road atlas, the poems carry lines and themes from one to the next, building and commenting on images and ideas to create a conversation. Vandenberg draws on family artifacts, memory, and imagination to plot the intersections of love, death, history, art, and desire. One part of the book, “The Red Fields of Lisse (A Love Story),” focuses on a former partner, a hemophiliac with AIDS. Linking his tainted blood to the virus that made tulips so rare and remarkable during the famous “Tulipomania” of the seventeenth century, the poems comment on the attraction of things known to be fragile and short-lived and on the many resonances of blood.
What a gift to have these poems in the world! Katrina Vandenberg is an expert witness to the verities, pathologies and moments. The stain of blood on this Atlas is exquisite. Here is the record of an honest pilgrim — a book of treasure maps and vital stats — a mighty work in words.
— Thomas Lynch
Katrina Vandenberg’s Atlas is poetic cartography of the first order — a map of the soul of a courageous and talented writer. Her explorations of experience, of love and loss and grief, are relentlessly honest; her vision imprecise; her language is fresh. ‘You want a big piece / of this world,’ she writes. ‘You would love to have the whole thing.’ Which is what every traveler seeks — and what readers will discover on every page of this marvelous book.
— Christopher Merrill
Katrina Vandenberg’s ways are boldly and beautifully mapped. Atlas is a first book of remarkable talent and depth.
— Pattiann Rogers
Atlas was a finalist for the 2005 Minnesota Book Award.
Read Poems from Atlas online:
YA author John Green reads “Jack O’Lantern”
“Consuming Desire” from the MPR project Writing Minnesota
“Entertaining Your Father in the Netherlands” Includes an interview with Patricia Weaver Francisco around the time Atlas came out. Poem and interview on pages 17-18 of the 2005 Bush Artist Fellows Catalog
“First Snowfall in Saint Paul,” on The Writer’s Almanac
“Marrying Late” on The Writer’s Almanac