A Prayer the Body Makes
Kelsay Books, Spring 2020
Penny Harter's poems bind up bristle and bone, weed and seed, salt and sand together in a tender alchemy. These poems beckon to the broken open heart. Stop by for a visit. Learn the names of honey, the bitter and the sweet. The reader lingers, listening to this prayer that we/ may all practice it together.
—Kim Langley, author of Send My Roots Rain: A Companion on the Grief Journey
The poems in Penny Harter's enviable body of work bear a striking resemblance to prayer, coming as they do from a place of stillness and deep intention. A Prayer the Body Makes, however, is her most accomplished, most flawlessly constructed book yet, inviting us to pay closer attention to the world around us and the many worlds held within us. In Penny Harter's hands, everything comes alive—from a kitchen that breathes as if sea-wind/has entered, to the farmhouse of her dreams, to her long-lost father singing again with her in their old Chrysler sedan as he tosses cigarettes out the window like "dying stars" whose light will never entirely go out. Read this book as you would a devotional text to remind yourself each day just how much there still is to love in this world.
—James Crews, editor of Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection
Reading A Prayer the Body Makes, I think of what it means when we say we are moved by art—how at the beginning of an encounter we are in one place, and at the end, another. Penny Harter’s poems, one by one, exemplify that movement from quotidian to transcendent to sublime. Harter’s poems are equally at home in lush landscapes and hospital rooms, beginning with physical detail and ending with a glimpse of eternity, as in “On Pike’s Peak I Eat Donuts,” You’ve done it, girl! You’ve done it, / climbed above the tree line, and come back.
—Donna Hilbert, author of Gravity: New & Selected Poems
The Resonance Around Us
Mountains and Rivers Press, 2013
Penny Harter spins her poems from all she holds dear: flesh, stone, water falling through the sky. She praises the opening and closing mouth of a tulip, the black skein of starlings across the highway and her grandson's infant voice rising and falling 'holy in the hypnotic dark'. And in her haibun (a Japanese form of poetry combining prose and haiku) we find a master poet, like the fortune tellers of old, looking into palms and finding stars.
—Terry Ann Carter, League of Canadian Poets President, Haiku Canada
Lyrical and evocative, the poems in Penny Harter's The Resonance Around Us continue to resonate within the reader long after the closing poem. Her language is at once delicate and profound with memorable surprises. Precise sensory details open possibilities of mystical connection. Love resonates throughout childhood memories, the nature of our planet, and shared moments with her late husband. The Resonance Around Us vibrates with living music.
—Charlotte Mandel, author of Life Work
Snapshot Press, 2012
Harter's work has previously been described as "direct, lyrical, light-filled" (Catherine Doty) with the power to remind us that "the wheel of existence rolls onward, and we with it, no matter what comes" (Susan Tweit). These descriptions are true of the work in One Bowl. . . . Written following the passing of her husband, William J. Higginson, One Bowl is an exploration of life's fragilities. The opening poem, "Estell Manor State Park," leads us deep into a gray day, where "oaks arced full over trails that faded into green or snaked into a density of swamp and lichened trunks." As we walk down that trail, a dead limb is tossed "full weight" at our feet and we are left to ask, what if . . . as our heartbeat quickens. It is this moment that opens the reader up to the thinness of life that resonates in Harter's poems.
—Graham Nunn, Haiku Poet, Brisbane, Australia
What, then, is the result of the writing that makes up One Bowl? Reading the pieces, for me (since really I can only talk about my response), I see a strength and a poignancy in them. There is also a very evocative element. It is as if, as I read them, my emotions are not responding to the text but are being evoked, called forth, one after the other. The same way the following image from the haiku of the title piece, “One Bowl,” evokes in me its vision of “the cluster of bees / vibrating.” This sense, that the writing is strong, poignant and evocative is, I feel, not unique to me. It is a result of its many elements working in concord to create a chapbook of heartbreaking honesty, yet one of compassion and—dare I say it—hope. Yes, there is the unity of the motif of grief. There is the language, emotional, yet not emoting, that also empowers the reader. There is the unity of form, and there is also the unity of the haibuns’ style, as well. These are all essential elements . . . this is a strong and powerful e-chapbook.
—Phillip Ellis Australian poet, freelance critic, and scholar
Mountains and Rivers Press, 2010
What a beautiful pavane Penny has written for Bill. We learn their secret names for death and love. Pain and birth. Hills and rain. Coins and ash. We listen and
bring the earth
to its knees
These poems are among Penny Harter's best, a fine tribute to her late husband, a wrenching presentation of loss, and an incomparable homage to love. Remarkable for their beauty and skilled compression, they fuse the deep territory of grief with the author's powerful migration into light. The process is alchemic, the language channeled to reveal the heart. Penny Harter is a master at giving emotional complexities profound clarity.