A moving, authentic exploration of spirituality and the domestic from a prize-winning poet

The wry, supple poems in Carrie Fountain’s second collection take the form of prayers and meditations chronicling the existential shifts brought on by parenthood, spiritual searching, and the profound, often beguiling experience of being a self, inside a body, with a soul. Fountain’s voice is at once deep and loose, enacting the dawning of spiritual insight, but without leaving the daily world, matching the feeling of the “pure holiness in motherhood” with the “thuds the giant dumpsters make behind the strip mall when they’re tossed back to the pavement by the trash truck.” In these wise, accessible, deeply emotional poems, she captures a contemporary longing for spiritual meaning that’s wary of prepackaged wisdom—a longing answered most fully by attending to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Burn Lake Penguin, 2010. Selected for the 2009 National Poetry Series by Natasha Trethewey .

Burn Lake
Penguin, 2010. Selected for the 2009 National Poetry Series by Natasha Trethewey .

In Burn Lake Carrie Fountain’s poems join intensity of vision to a verbal firmness which is uncommon and very satisfying.  Her work reminds me of the poems of Marie Howe and of Brigit Kelly; like them, Fountain is a seeker, and like them, she holds herself to the rigorous standards of observation and deduction that make spiritual intelligence convincing. And these are spiritual poems– tough, alert, and never sentimental, but written by a soul cast fatally into the material world, always looking for the truth behind, under, and beyond. Burn Lake goes at experience as if it were a closed fist, then forces that fist open to show what is inside.   Tony Hoagland

Carrie Fountain writes wondrous poems of such transporting movement and time-depth, we could all be everywhere we’ve ever loved, teenagers again, or a hundred years from now, sky-shimmering, containing it all.     Naomi Shihab Nye

I sat down to take a quick look at Carrie Fountain’s book and suddenly an hour had passed. Then I noticed I’d dog-eared almost every page I’d read. I’m stunned by the power of these poems. Here’s all the real trouble we’re in: death and time and pain – held in a clear crisp collection that seems made of joy. More than a dozen times I laughed out loud. How is this possible? Burn Lake is a miracle.     Marie Howe

With grace and a keen attention to the implications of history, the poems in Burn Lake grapple with what it means to be tied to a place, knowing that our own losses are not only what is taken from us, but also what we take from others. “A road is the crudest faith in things to come,” Fountain writes, suggesting the palpable longing that winds through these poems.    Natasha Trethewey