NIGHT-SINGING BIRD by Karen Harrison

There are three main threads in Karen Harrison’s poetry, which intertwine: nature, God and her personal life. But they are not simply ontological, they belong to each other, they widen each other, they talk amongst themselves. In Harrison’s nature, there is room for many birds, but the most important are those that sing at night (hence the title of the book), just as God made darkness His home. Her God is a long pilgrimage starting with an entire belonging, but also allowing for a critical mind: she will protest in front of the United Nations about Him, who permitted such diversity in faith, but accepts only true believers. In her intimate moments, she suffered a terrible illness, but this is not a reason for closing herself off; for Harrison, it is a source of communication. The soul of this poet is open towards the other. It is a poetry – and a life – of relation. In this way, she confirms that most Christian postulate: that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We hold in our hands a book of aesthetic poetry, a silent book that sounds more like messages than conversation. This is autobiographical poetry, but it has deeper roots in the Spirit, which Church Fathers describe as a fish swimming in the open sea, in God. “Like a fish in an aquarium, I am a thing of the Spirit,” writes Harrison.

Cutting Out (On Hebrews 9:22)

Maybe it was you, or just the alcohol.
Between the jazz and the free food,
I wanted to take the nearest knife
and stab myself. No –
to press it through my skin;
to draw it carefully,
like cutting cake at a wedding,
to watch myself part and bleed.
It was a need,
felt at the edges of my sleeves,
the wanting
to make the feeling visible.
To make it tangible,
marked with precision,
linear, until the blood flows.
To make it manageable,
reduced to a need for iodine and action.
To give it focus.
To give me purchase on its slick sides,
opening a handhold in my flesh.



Humility is not self-loathing.
It is impossible to loathe a grain of sand
on a beach, beside an ocean.
Even in your shoe,
it is simply a thing misplaced.


Sunset, Grand Canyon

You seat yourself
cross-legged on a limestone ledge,
at the edge, and look west.
I am not expecting your seriousness.
I click. I frame. I shift.
Then I recognize your stillness.
I still myself.

I recite the paternoster
in the silence of my throat,
at the base of my skull,
between my temples,
until my breath is too big for my frame.
It flows into the air around us.
My spirit holds us both,
the way the setting sun
holds the cliffs with light.
Your knee against my calf
marks the end of my physical self
and our continuity in space.
Then the sun is gone.

You stand briskly,
brush the limestone from your shorts.
The wind rises with the sound of the sea,
as the earth cools.
I have just one thing to say:
“Well, it surely is
a bloody big hole in the ground.”

Additional Info

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    NIGHT-SINGING BIRD by Karen Harrison is available for purchase through your local or online bookshop

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    ISBN: 978-954-384-061-8

    Publication Date: 26 May 2017

    Language: English

    Paperback: 62 pages

    Dimensions: 216 x 140 mm