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Breath as: Short Poems
Carol Snow
Em Press
Mill Valley, CA
ISBN 0-9632085-6-X
[46] p., 4.5 x 7.25
Signed & numbered edition of 100

Her originality is to be puzzled—as artists should be—by the obvious. She is cunning, subtle, and she can write.
—Robert Hass, U.S. Poet Laureate, 1995-97

...[H]ow fiercely syntax can be used as an instrument for self-scrutiny, and how brutally self-transforming a verbal action can be when undertaken in good faith.
—Jorie Graham

Breath as is a book of twenty-five short poems of one to four lines in five sequences which are titled "News Of," "Fragments of Conversation," "Memory," "By the Pond," and "Tether." Carol Snow is a contemplative poet of breathtaking clarity and complexity whose minute scrutiny of the world and the word includes the discrete elements of punctuation and of silence. A poem in "News Of” consists only of a title:

          What comfort?

for which there are, as Snow indicates with the blankness of her page, no possible words.

These poems, though brief, do not abbreviate but reverberate, "Breath as,"

           News of

          the unbearable, happening.

          Breath saying,
Now, now.

Breath as is an early showcase of Carol Snow's dazzlingly spare poetic style, published just after she won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, the National Poetry Series, and the Poetry Center Book Award for her first collection, Artist and Model. Her second collection, For , with cover art by Dale Going, inaugurated the University of California Press’ poetry series, followed by The Seventy Prepositions , also from University of California Press. Her latest book, PLACED: Karesansui Poems, is from Counterpath Press.

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"News Of" and "News Of: Codicils" comprise the first section of For. The "Codicils" (this is a term for addenda to a legal document) have appeared in the letterpress chapbook Breath As: Short Poems…."News Of" …was written in December 1989 after the gunning down of seven(?) women on a Canadian college campus, it could not resolve (me) – though as accountant daughter of a C.P.A., I fancied the use of 'reconciled' – and the "Codicils" followed, written and assembled – some were extracts from longer poems – more slowly. Of course, the sections are arranged as a sequence. But I also intended that any codicil section could be read separately in response to "News Of" (like a "Responsive Reading" in Temple), modifying it in a singular way.

…the first line of each "Codicil" is italicized: as "musical reference" to the single-line stanzas opening/titling each of Mary Barnard's Sappho translations and (even more obscurely) to the sound of Responsive Readings themselves (or the Pledge of Allegiance, "Happy Birthday," etc.) – a ragged, "vibrant" entrance until our many variations on assuredness and hesitation settle into one voice.
Carol Snow, “Working Notes,”How2

Designed and printed by Dale Going on a Vandercook SP15 letterpress from photopolymer plates of Monotype Fournier digital type. Handmade St. Armand grey paper covers (from recycled denim), handmade white St. Armand “Frobisher” and multi-colored Yatsuo text papers, and Kinwashi endpapers are handsewn with white flat woven ribbon in a Japanese stab binding.

Breath as has been exhibited in Beside the Sleeping Maiden, O’Hanlon Center Gallery, Mill Valley, CA; in Art & Soul of the Handmade Book at the Blue Heron Gallery in Vashon Island, WA; and in Livres de poètes (femmes) , Berkeley Art Center, June 2000.

Also from Em Press: Bowl