In this Book

summary
In The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, Gillian Cummings gives voice to her version of Ophelia, a young woman shattered by unbearable losses, and questions what makes a mind unwind till the outcome is deemed a suicide. Ophelia’s story, spoken quietly, lyrically, in prose poems whose tone is unapologetically feminine, is bracketed by short, whittled-down once-sonnets featuring other Ophelias, nameless “she” and “you” characters who address the question of madness and its aftermath. These women and girls want to know, what is God when the soul is at its nadir of suffering, and how can one have faith when living with a mind that wants to destroy itself?

If it is true, as Joseph Campbell said, that “the psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight,” then Cummings strains the boundaries of this notion: “Is it the same? The desire to end a life / and the need to know how: a flower’s simple bliss?” Her women and girls, part “little heavenling” and part “small hellborn,” understand the emptiness of utmost despair and long for that other emptiness, which can be thought of as union with God, the death of the troublesome ego. Cummings’s poetic ancestors may be Dickinson and Plath and her source here Shakespeare, but more contemporary voices also echo in her poems, those of Lucie Brock-Broido, Larissa Szporluk, and Cynthia Cruz. Here, in The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, is what might happen if, after sealing off the doors and turning on the gas, indeed, after dying, a poet had come to embrace the holiness in how “all dissolves: one color, / one moon, all earth, red as love, red as living.”

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page
  2. pp. i-vi
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-ix
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  1. A Note from the Final Judge
  2. p. x
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  1. I
  2. pp. 1-2
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  1. All of It Alive
  2. p. 3
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  1. Of the Notebook’s Eyes
  2. p. 4
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  1. Of Water and Echo
  2. p. 5
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  1. Moon-Girls of the Burning Barn, 1
  2. p. 6
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  1. Moon-Girls of the Burning Barn, 2
  2. p. 7
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  1. Of Blossoms and Ghosts
  2. p. 8
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  1. Low to Ground and Listening
  2. p. 9
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  1. Here the Woods Come in Too Close
  2. p. 10
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  1. Of Bubbles and Milk
  2. p. 11
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  1. Flowers for the Executioner
  2. p. 12
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  1. A Matryoshka Doll Is a Nest Made of Eggs
  2. p. 13
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  1. Silence, a Prayer of Wax
  2. p. 14
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  1. Little Heavenling
  2. p. 15
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  1. Faint Stars of Dread
  2. p. 16
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  1. Memory of Sin
  2. p. 17
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  1. Unknowing the Clouds
  2. p. 18
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  1. Unwriting the Sentence
  2. p. 19
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  1. Of the Cloud In-Between
  2. p. 20
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  1. Song of Languor
  2. p. 21
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  1. Death’s Secrets like a Box
  2. p. 22
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  1. II
  2. pp. 23-24
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  1. A toy in blood
  2. p. 25
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  1. I shall good lesson keep
  2. p. 26
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  1. The steep and thorny way
  2. p. 27
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  1. Vows of heaven
  2. p. 28
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  1. Pale as his shirt
  2. p. 29
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  1. So piteous and profound
  2. p. 30
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  1. Perfume lost
  2. p. 31
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  1. Could beauty
  2. p. 32
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  1. Like sweet bells jangled
  2. p. 33
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  1. A grass-green turf
  2. p. 34
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  1. The owl was a baker’s daughter
  2. pp. 35-36
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  1. III
  2. pp. 37-38
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  1. A Dream of Sea Urchins
  2. p. 39
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  1. When World Is Whale
  2. p. 40
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  1. Moon-Girls of the Medicine
  2. p. 41
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  1. To Limn a Limbed Thing
  2. p. 42
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  1. They Break Open in Sun but Stay Dark
  2. p. 43
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  1. Portrait of a Storm
  2. p. 44
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  1. Of Thread and Absence
  2. p. 45
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  1. Of the Light Before Darkness
  2. p. 46
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  1. When the Shepherd Sleeps
  2. p. 47
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  1. Beech, Birch, Buckthorn
  2. p. 48
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  1. This Shade Won’t Ink Why You Are Shy
  2. p. 49
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  1. Never Disparage a Moon-Girl, 1
  2. p. 50
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  1. Promise You Will Never Go Away
  2. p. 51
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  1. Never Disparage a Moon-Girl, 2
  2. p. 52
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  1. A Respite from the Ice
  2. p. 53
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  1. Colder the Arriving than What Arrives
  2. p. 54
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  1. Lonely the Lake, and Sere the Sedges
  2. p. 55
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  1. No Tomorrows
  2. p. 56
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  1. In the Red Night Clouds
  2. p. 57
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  1. If Wings Neither Waxed nor Waned
  2. p. 58
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  1. IV
  2. pp. 59-60
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  1. All my joy
  2. p. 61
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 62-63
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  1. Acknowledgements
  2. pp. 64-68
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Additional Information

ISBN
9781885635662
Related ISBN
9781885635655
MARC Record
OCLC
1043957458
Pages
79
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-06
Language
English
Open Access
No
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