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To Embroider the Ground with Prayer

Teresa J. Scollon

Award Winner

Michigan, Poetry

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: February 2012
ISBN: 9780814336205
Pages: 104 Size: 6 x 9
Published: February 2012
ISBN: 9780814336212
Pages: 104 Size: EPUB

This is a first collection to justly rejoice in. Scollon's variety of tones, her verbal textures, and the atmosphere of her landscapes are like Turner's watercolors; they bleed and they transfix.

— Gray Jacobik

To Embroider the Ground with Prayer is a portrait of poet Teresa J. Scollon’s several worlds, as she accompanies her father through his illness and death and records the richness of family and community life in her Michigan town. These poems enjoy reverence and irreverence in equal measure as grief appears side by side with playfulness and humor. Scollon employs a wide range of poetic styles and voices: elegies, narratives, and persona poems are organized in recursive circles that evoke family, village, local characters, and the author’s adult life beyond her hometown.

The collection begins with personal history and is rooted in a regional voice and focus, but Scollon skillfully transforms her experiences into larger concerns that resonate deeply and universally. Readers will get to know Scollon’s father, in fragile health but still so vital to those around him; trace Scollon’s many paths into and out of grief; and follow her travels as she confronts the pull of memory and once again forges her way in the external world. Throughout, Scollon records her understanding with fidelity, clarity, and reverence for story, and finds beauty in small everyday acts of devotion, patience, and humility. As Scollon writes, "To capture story is one way of giving thanks, of paying attention, to know where we are."

Although this is her first full-length collection, Scollon’s stirring work is situated in the tradition of American poetry that includes the likes of Ruth Stone, Wendell Berry, Ted Kooser, James Wright, Carl Sandberg, and Edgar Lee Masters. Readers interested in contemporary poetry will be grateful for this profound collection.

Teresa J. Scollon is a native of Michigan’s thumb and an alumna and former writer-in-residence at Interlochen Arts Academy. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Western Michigan University’s Prague Summer Program and is author of the chapbook Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game. Scollon teaches writing at Northwestern Michigan College and has worked in several fields; she has served as EEO Officer for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and book review editor for ForeWord Reviews.

Every one of Scollon's poems is interwoven with intimacy, with every detail revealing that love of knowing. . . . From the first to the last page of To Embroider the Ground with Prayer, readers are wrapped in moments that show us the way to love.

– Jennifer Fandel, ForeWord Reviews

The poems in To Embroider the Ground with Prayer, with their focus on a midwestern farming community, will remind you of the long American literary tradition that takes small-town life as its subject. There are comic portraits and unsettling revelations. But all together the poems give off such warmth and light-the light of clarity, the warmth of affection-that at times you will forget that you are reading a book of grief. Teresa J. Scollon's is a welcome new voice in our poetry."

– Mark Jarman

Teresa J. Scollon's poems speak to the mysteries of our coming and going on Earth and our always-fraught abiding. She has a marvelous ear for the poetry of what seems at first humdrum-the wry pleasantries of the Midwest and the feeling lodged in the enormous land. The poignancy of the poems is always genuine, resting as it does on the fulcrum of tenderness and the mortal awareness of life's on-goingness. The strength in her language is mirrored in the strength of the narratives and moments she so deftly relates."

– Baron Wormser

These poems abound in humor, heartbreak, and intellect. This is a first collection to justly rejoice in. Scollon's variety of tones, her verbal textures, and the atmosphere of her landscapes are like Turner's watercolors; they bleed and they transfix. Her subject matter-fundamental moments that embody the beauty, absurdity, and anguish of our human existence--put me in mind of Thomas Hardy in their heartfelt intensity. Never a touch over inflated, or faint or merely equitable, Scollon's metaphors hit the mark with a precise ping of recognition, and in poem after poem-out of the authenticity of her speaking and the caliber of her craft-the rhapsodic arrives."

– Gray Jacobik

I love this book and the world it creates. Teresa J. Scollon has the storyteller's sensibility of E. A. Robinson. She also has a particular brand of restraint that opens her poems into mystery in a way that leaves me either breathless or laughing. She ends the poem Catechism" with: Let mystery / be mystery; let all the explanations be ridiculous; / let us be together in the distance between." Scollon's voice is clear, solid, rich, and funny. There's no poetizing, no sloppiness, nothing that isn't true and nothing that isn't poem."

– Fleda Brown

  • 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: finalist in the category of Poetry