Has American poetry ever produced a fresher, savvier, grittier, more elegant, and drop-dead formally exhilarating sequence than Katie Hartsock’s “Hotels, Motels, and Extended Stays”? If so, I’ve yet to see it. Hartsock is as deft (and loving) with the vulgarities of truck stop rent-by-the-hour as with the secret wit of rhyme, or the venerables of Homeric epic: her range and her inventiveness appear to know no limit. And this is just a fraction of what bursts to life in Bed of Impatiens. I’m dazzled by the sheer bounty of it. —Linda Gregerson, author of Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976 to 2014
Like René Magritte I want to paint “This is not a first book” under this first book. It is Lolita all grown up and taking us on a cross-country tour of the motels she stayed in with Humbert. It’s St. Augustine as Dennis Rodman, elbowing us out of position underneath God’s basket. But it’s not a cacophony of surrealism. Ms. Hartsock’s classical training—her knowledge and powerful rhythms—is the ground, the spine of this book (pun intended); but the excitement is watching the ancient and the contemporary meet in an explosion of true Form. . . . It’s a wild (and exhilarating) ride of language and smarts, this first book that’s not a first book.
—James Cummins, author of Still Some Cake
Katie Hartsock’s book of poems Bed of Impatiens is, for a first volume, unusually broad in its range and fierce in its attitudes. Although her title suggests a pretty pastoral, that is not where her taste leads her. Instead, her characteristic vantage includes landscapes derelict and macabre, like the flooded grave in the first poem, and the endless highways of the US, with their extended-stay motels and the ghosts that inhabit them. . . . Hartsock is a sharp and clever reader of the books of nature and of art, yet writes in nobody’s shadow.
—Mary Kinzie, author of California Sorrow
What truth to find in a world whose rivers “we cannot swim in and no/ cannot drink the water/ cannot imagine that,” a land of “seedless sweetness” and dank motels that are its monuments to transience? Katie Hartsock’s answer in her ambitious first collection, Bed of Impatiens, is to wander and “let the weather in,” to keep recalibrating her position in an ever-shifting poetic landscape. Pythagoras, Emily Dickinson, and Tom Petty converge on a Chicago lakeside street where the speaker both is and is not present; Euripidean slave women provide the chorus for her return to the “murk-loving waters” of a ghosted Mississippi; motel rooms strangers have “shared separately” proliferate hilariously, populated with paradox and loss. A beautiful, formally inventive verse rendering of Saint Augustine’s Confessions, alternating with first-person poems of earthly love, constitutes the book’s final section. “I have felt the bliss,” Hartsock testifies, ever the truth-seeker, ever the denier, “and the burning too.”
—Lee Sharkey, author of Calendars of Fire
One of the great strengths of holding in mind—in a poem, especially—both the ancient and the present-day is that human longing and loss can be elevated a little, and sometimes even nearly hallowed, when set against the patterns of myth. A new poem reenacts this particular long-standing power of poetry, among its many others. Thus we may sometimes find the solace of significance in what otherwise might seem meaningless or might impose on us a meaning we can’t bear.
—Reginald Gibbons (from the foreword), author of Slow Trains Overhead