In Ida Stewart's debut collection GLOSS, the book’s Appalachian setting and mountaintop-removal theme play out in language itself, giving voice to the mountain, and considering the delicate relationship between humans and nature.
Like the Appalachian mountain setting from which GLOSS arises, the language in this collection is in flux, full of paradox and thresholds, each word and line a peak or a range. The poems are mined from the ruptured and fragmented rock and dirt of the colloquial, creating a kind of “landguage” or “langscape.” Indeed, the poems (mis)behave like little ecosystems, in which word-play, rhyme, and enjambment simultaneously make and break sense, join and repel—evoking the tensions between progress and resistance. Embedded among the strata of Gloss is loss: many poems respond to mountaintop removal coal mining, which is literally flattening the rich complexity of the Appalachian landscape and culture. As the poems give voice to the mountain-top, they consider the delicate relationship between humans and nature, lover and beloved, as well as the natural complexity of communication and utterance, the struggle to say the unsayable.
“Ida Stewart’s marvelous debut is pitch-perfect whether one thinks of pitch as a reference to the extraordinary qualities of sound here, or a reference to the velocity of this poet’s verbal curveballs and changeups. Even the recurring image of mountains comes to represent pitch as the slope between gravity and levity, mayhem and harmony. Few poets combine such a musical ear with such transfixing insights and associations. Gloss is a brilliant and endlessly resonant first book.” —Terrance Hayes
“Think Marquez in Appalachia, Kay Ryan at a strip mine, and you still won’t have the whole of this brilliant book. In Gloss, Ida Stewart makes magic out of a mountain, out of a childhood lived in West Virginia and the relentless pillaging of that land by commercial interests—and never does she compromise her art with cliché or polemic. Conscientious, charming, cunning, and complex: Gloss is a significant poetic debut.” —Kathy Fagan
“Even at her most playful, Ida Stewart brings deep feeling and serious insight to the page as she propels her readers from poem to poem.” —Nick McRae
“Musical and deeply rooted in a sense of place, Ida Stewart’s debut poetry collection highlights the essential element of sound within contemporary poetry.” —Alyse Bensel
Poetry. Women’s Studies.
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Born and raised in West Virginia, Ida Stewart now lives in Philadelphia where she is the managing editor of the Journal of the History of Ideas. She holds an MFA in creative writing from The Ohio State University and a PhD in English from The University of Georgia. Stewart's poems have appeared in journals including Field, Typo Magazine, and Pool. GLOSS, winner of the 2011 Perugia Press Prize, is her first book. Two poems from Gloss-"Soil" and "Point Blank"-can be found in Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods, an anthology of West Virginia writers.