the deering hour

Ornithopter Press, 2021
the deering hour pushes against the edges of lyric to find the moments and spaces where the natural, object, and human worlds meet. The voice is a decidedly female, at times maternal, engagement that repositions the lived center so that the margin, the edge, and the boundary become rich, inhabitable spaces. These are lush, layered poems that deal in the porosity of multiplying questions, fluidities, and transformations from plant, mineral, and animal to the human. They trade in wings, beaks, and feathers; orogeny, rocks, and subduction zones; the moment when the animal and plant take over. Language becomes its own marker, so that what we know of the human animal is a pause, a call, a limb, and a bloom in the world and on the page.


5 February 2022, 6.30-8 p.m.
Frenchtown, New Jersey


“In her stunning debut collection, Karen Elizabeth Bishop makes the language of the world strange again. the deering hour leads us through a thrilling, at times, incendiary, journey of radical recombinatory possibilities by which the everyday becomes an arena for transformation. These are poems written at a “white heat,” as Dickinson put it. They challenge the reader to step inside the wilder orbits of lyric and become undone. 

          let this be home, where death does not
          mean more than to swallow a mouthful
                       of water,

          easy-like, casual, tame. not the wild look
          of brambles or trying to rid the heart of
                      sun stroke,

          but the clarity of a lost name recalled, yes,
          the quiet candor of a surprise night-bone,
                      white wake.

Here, as throughout, syntax is a form of cognition, engendering the surprise of eros. the deering hour makes a certain kind of demand on its readers—it asks for their fullest attention through an intricate webwork of cascading sound and an ontological yearning for connection. These poems are as harrowing as they are intimate. They bristle with an incandescent charge—channeling something ancient and weird: a chthonic séance. An otherworldly vision rich in terrestrial moss and loam and swoon.” 

​—Patrick Pritchett, author of Refrain Series (Dos Madres Press)

​”Bishop’s is a lyrically lush collection, thronging with iridescent color and rows of teeth in unexpected places. It is thoroughly, intentionally strange, purposefully wrought in terms of sonics, image and introspection. The Deering Hour sits at the weirdly beautiful table with Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Lucie Brock-Broido; it leans a velvet shoulder against phenomenology, hybridity, and its own aural intelligence. . . . I feel shaken awake by Bishop’s poetry. I had surely been sleeping; I had let the waves social tragedy and disaster on the news wash over me until I am not really seeing the world. Poems like “interstellar,” “leaf-lung,” and “field notes from the biological station” pull me back, remind me of the wildness of our natural environment, remind me that humans are not apart, we are a part-of nature, and strange, too.”

—Han VanderHart for EcoTheo, September 2021

“What is “mossmeal” and what does it feel like on the skin? And when, for that matter, is “the deering hour”? Bishop’s “fiction of / grammar” involves natural processes and supernatural metamorphoses, both which put pressure on her language, bending it into strangely beautiful shapes. Bishop has an Ovidian sensibility, and as in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, humans are constantly being transformed into plants and animals. But in Bishop’s work, mythic narrative meets contemporary ecopoetics, as an ancient sense of the divine blends on the levels of phoneme and syntax with modern biology, geology, and ecology.”

—Norman Finkelstein for Restless Messengers, October 2021

“In the deering hour, there is buried between an awesome and ecstatic lyric poetry a timely poetics of isolation and survival capable of carrying a pandemic readership toward honest, patient movement. the deering hour is a book that feels as crafted by quarantine and introspective society as it feels a conduit for the ever-expansive world just beyond our walls. Throughout, Karen Elizabeth Bishop follows many veins, many threads, and finds her own natural space for foraging the wispy peripheries of a breathing world.”

—Greg Bem for North of Oxford, November 2021