Praise for No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins

In Mary Anne Morefield’s new book, No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins, her poems proceed by a series of built-in tensions: past richness of husband and family balanced against present-day freedoms of solitude and self-exploration; past faith in a traditional Christian worldview balanced against her current desire for a World Spirit that blesses all life. These finely honed, linguistically dexterous poems also balance aesthetic and sensory pleasures (for writing, painting, eating, hiking in the world’s textures and colors) against the bitter recognition of the world’s deprivations and suffering. And finally, her desire and determination for more life, more life, bumps up against her acknowledgment of time’s undoing: "The mantle clock chimes the quarter hour and ticks the next second.../The earth keeps spinning./I try to hang on, at least this minute." And as she hangs on, she writes poems that range far and wide through space and time, or as she says in "What Are Your Poems About?" "They're large/as the world, small/as a pebble, high/as clouds, humble/ as humus."

If the free spirit within her dreams of riding bareback among the starry firmament, (or muses about the sleeping horse outside her window who could be dreaming of "no bit in his mouth, no saddle/ on his back, no reins,"), the fully mature poet, Mary Anne Morefield, records the various ways that life reins us in for our work on earth - whether doing her daily chores as wife and mother on a Pennsylvania farm, or working within the Christian ministry, or marching in political protest on the streets of Washington - before it releases us again into the solitude of our later years. For this poet, solitude comes in the arid landscapes of Arizona, where she learns to find a new richness and independence, whether hiking in the desert, wrestling with a new spirituality ("now I am content to let those doctrines fly,/ and simply believe one Great Spirit/ with many names, dwells among us,") or musing on time's constraints and releases. If there is solace amidst sorrow, it arrives as "a bevy of quail, a hummingbird, a road runner and eyes to gather them in,/a path that wanders through the desert, legs strong enough to wander/ with it, and strong enough to bring me home again,/the promise of friends around the dinner table"

--Neil Shephard author of Hominid Up


Praise for Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone

Mary Anne Morefield’s collection reflects the poet’s meticulous observation of the natural world, but the poems belie their sometimes beautiful surfaces. Their subjects are as various as the forms they take (haibun, sonnet, ode, and more) and encompass vastly different geographies. This is true of the physical worlds the poems evoke: Pennsylvania’s woods, hills, and farmlands and Arizona’s desert landscape. This is also true of the psychic space they conjure, one often marked by loss, both personal and public. Beginning with the opening, title poem and extended in the third, the book contains a number of elegies and could be read as a moving lament for a lost spouse. Yet inside the elegy resides the ode, and these poems insist that we remember the full range of human experience: “Rain or Sun? Must I Choose/between them?” the poet asks at the conclusion of one of her poems. The answer the collection overwhelmingly suggests is: No. The point is not to “choose” but rather to learn to live “in the space between/the nothing, the everything, the all.”

--Shara McCallum