Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
12:00 AM 11th May 2024

Poem Of The Week: Widow By Carrie Etter


The plateau she stands on
extends flat in all directions,
prairie without a crop.

When she looks, he is too
plainly not there.
The sky, whatever the weather,

renders absence vast,
apparently limitless.
This is a fallow field-

who knows what it can bear?

Carrie Etter’s fine poem, like so many in her new collection, carries an indelible photographic quality. Viewed as if from the elevation of an empty plateau, the sparse landscape, and the threadbare tercets in which it is conceived, become metaphors for the sense of absence yielded in bereavement; a landscape, in other words, of grief.

As limitlessly barren as the desert-bound ‘wreck’ of Ozymandian ambition, and as terminally infected with the pallor of grief as Tennyson’s elegy for a lost friend, the terrain the widow surveys yields no signpost, no comfort; the plateau is fallow, a ‘prairie’ without the promise of a crop.

And yet a strange beauty obtains in the endless choreography of a Wim Wenders sky, whose scale acts to magnify the sense of displacement, as it also absorbs the psychological effort exhausted in its contemplation. Etter’s final line is double-edged: does the vast plain’s emptiness deflect, or reinforce the pain?

‘Widow’ is taken from Grief’s Alphabet, published by Seren Books (2024) and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher.
More information here.